Architecture shapes the character of a place and its people, and Hong Kong is no exception. Skyscrapers may be crammed on Hong Kong Island and Kowloon on the mainland, and yet there is room to stand out. Here are iconic buildings designed by a handful of the world’s renowned starchitects, proof that innovative architecture in Hong Kong is no fluke.
Designed by: Norman Foster, famous for the Gherkin in London and the Reichstag dome in Berlin
The headquarters of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation is the renowned British architect’s first significant project in Asia. The brief: to design “the best bank building in the world”. Completed in 1985, it was the world’s most expensive building, lauded today for being ahead of its time. Much of the structure, including the distinctive steel exoskeleton, was prefabricated from different countries. Energy-efficient, with floor plans flexible enough to reconfigure, the HSBC Building influenced the way bank towers are designed. The building is guarded by two historic bronze lions, affectionately called Stephen and Stitt, that are half a century older than the existing building and believed to bring good luck.
1 Queen’s Road, Central
How to get there: MTR Central station, Exit K
Run Run Shaw Creative Media Centre
Designed by: noted architect and artist Daniel Libeskind, who designed the Jewish Museum in Berlin and drew up the masterplan for the World Trade Center site in New York
Libeskind’s signature crystalline shapes are translated into assymetrical windows and doorways, fitting for this cutting-edge learning institution at the City University of Hong Kong. Opened in 2011, this rough diamond’s interactive spaces and white stairwells are designed to encourage out-of-the-box thinking and inspire students aspiring to join the creative and cultural fields. The centre is named after Sir Run Run Shaw of the Shaw Brothers film empire, who was a benefactor.
18 Tat Hong Avenue, Kowloon Tong
How to get there: Bus 2B/2F/86C/203S/E22 to Chak Yan Centre
Bank of China Tower
Designed by: I. M. Pei, best known for the Louvre Pyramid in Paris and the Islamic Art Museum in Doha
It is impossible to miss the Bank of China Tower on the Hong Kong skyline because of its distinctive diamond pattern, a play on bamboo shoots, and the growth and prosperity they symbolise. At 315 metres high (367 metres including the mast), it was the tallest building in Asia and the the tallest building outside of the United States when it was completed in 1990. The structure uses less steel for a building its size because of five columns that resist high-velocity winds and reduce the need for vertical supports. It was once the centre of controversy for supposedly not following feng shui principles and resembling a knife. On a clear day, visit the 43rd floor observation deck for free views of the Hong Kong skyline. Photo ID is required for entry.
1 Garden Road, Central
How to get there: MTR Central station, Exit J2
Jockey Club Innovation Tower
Designed by: Zaha Hadid, whose works include the Guangzhou Opera House in Guangzhou and the Bergisel Ski Jump in Innsbruck
Housing the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) School of Design and the Design Institute for Social Innovation, the tower is described by its design team as “a beacon structure symbolizing and driving the development of Hong Kong as a design hub in Asia”. Shining the spotlight on design with a futuristic outlook and fluid lines, it embodies the design thinking process, linking multidisciplinary faculty and studentry and promoting interaction between the programmes, as well as with the public, on its open foyer on the podium level. Built on an irregular site, the 15-storey tower has been drawing visitors since its completion in 2013.
Yuk Choi Road, Hung Hom
How to get there: MTR Hung Hom station, Exit A1
Two International Finance Centre (Two IFC)
Designed by: César Pelli, celebrated for the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur
Currently the second tallest building in Hong Kong at 420 metres, Two IFC was completed in 2004. It is set on the narrowest crossing of Victoria Harbour, right across the International Commerce Centre (ICC), Hong Kong’s tallest. Built on reclaimed land and unobstructed by other buildings, Two IFC is a landmark on the waterfront with its lightly reflective glass cladding and brightly lit crown. The structure tapers at the top like an obelisk to emphasise upward movement. It is one of only a few buildings in the world using double-decker lifts. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority Information Centre at the 55th floor is a good place to learn about money and views the skyline for free. Photo ID is required for entry.
8 Finance Street, Central
How to get there: Airport Express & MTR Hong Kong station, Exit A2
OTHER NOTABLE MODERN STRUCTURES IN HONG KONG
Hong Kong Convention and Exhibit Centre, Wan Chai
Hong Kong International Airport, Chek Lap Kok
Lippo Centre, Admiralty
International Commerce Centre (ICC), West Kowloon