A subterranean station, skyscraper church and concrete water pipes...see our list of the best architecture in Hong Kong over the past decade
As 2019 nears its end, architecture and design writer Catherine Shaw considers what makes these 12 buildings of the past decade stand out, from the small and modest to iconic and inspirational, assessed by their originality and innovation:
1. Asia Society Hong Kong Center (2012)
A bridge that zigzags through a rainforest linking heritage buildings with contemporary galleries and a theatre is just part of this imaginative adaptive reuse of a former explosives magazine perched on a sharply sloping 3-acre site in Admiralty.
Thoughtfully designed inside and out by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, this is an inspirational example of architecture that is sensitive to its location, infusing its beautifully restored historic character with much-needed contemporary cultural facilities.
2. Pacific Place (2011)
A model for how to breathe new life into older architecture, British designer Thomas Heatherwick spearheaded the transformation of Pacific Place with a new skin of swirling bands of limestone and Bedonia stone, the addition of skylights that flood the interiors with natural daylight and a rooftop converted into a generous new public terrace.
Inside there is intuitive signage and a palette of natural stone, wood and textured wallpaper—and the pièce de résistance: a dazzling super-luxe washroom with a wave of timber doors.
3. The Run Run Shaw Creative Media Centre (2011)
New York architect Daniel Libeskind’s abstract media centre for the City University of Hong Kong is a dramatic juggernaut of architecture with glazed segments that wrap around the faceted façade and intersecting bands of lighting that slice through the ceilings of the captivating interior. The ideal lair for a Bond villain or students of the creative arts, it sets a high bar for educational architecture in Hong Kong.
4. Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centre Hong Kong (2013)
Frank Gehry drew inspiration from the classical gardens of Suzhou for this beautifully understated purpose-built cancer care centre that comprises a series of pavilions with rooms overlooking a pond and intimate gardens designed by landscape architect Lily Jencks, the daughter of founders Charles and Maggie Keswick Jencks. The dignified design provides a soothing escape without any glitz.
5. Innovation Tower (2014)
Dame Zaha Hadid’s only design in Hong Kong is a poetic rallying cry for creativity in the face of Kowloon’s bland landscape. However, the Pritzker-Prize winning architect’s signature curvaceous and sensual architectural landscape design does much more than make a powerful visual statement and provide a thoroughly modern outlook for the Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s School of Design.
Its bold rethinking of the classic tower and podium into one bold multidisciplinary environment also consolidates all the school’s activities into a single building with a seamless continuity of space and natural daylight over 15 storeys.
6. OPod Tube House (2018)
Hong Kong architect James Law’s ingenious concept transforms 2.5m-wide concrete water pipes into temporary living spaces with living, cooking and bathing facilities. The tubes, which have a Smartphone-operated locking system, can easily be relocated by crane and stacked on top of each other in unused urban spaces between buildings.
This is inspirational architecture at its best and a serious attempt, despite its playful appearance, to address the pressing shortage of housing in Hong Kong.
7. West Kowloon Station (2018)
This striking structure on west Kowloon, the largest below-ground station in the world, serves as a gateway to Mainland China. Designed by Andrew Bromberg at Aedas, its ingenious floating shell-like dome with 4,000 glass panels supported on a forest of columns that captures natural daylight in the airy atrium is a welcome departure from the city’s sky-high architecture and offers users a different perspective of the city. Catching a train has never been so thrilling.
8. Tai Kwun (2018)
Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron’s reworking of a steep hillside defensive site to create a vibrant public space shows a new way of living with history. A tour de force of meticulous restoration, improved circulation and visual connectivity with two ingenious crisp new additions wrapped in aluminium 3D cast panels join new and old together with unexpected results. A brilliant example of thoughtful restoration.
9. Wesleyan House Methodist International Church (2018)
Rocco Design Architects’ skyscraper church is a model of ingenuity that makes the most of a challenging small 800-sq-m teardrop-shaped plot with church functions stacked vertically over 21 floors, culminating in a serene Sky Chapel with spectacular harbour views. An urban homage to Hong Kong’s vertical skyline, the architects have created an innovative yet simple and refined architectural solution with a timeless religious ambience.
10. The Hong Kong Jockey Club University of Chicago Academic Complex (2018)
This is one of the most original and considered buildings in Hong Kong. A master class in the adaptive reuse of heritage buildings, treading lightly on a sheer forested site, this sculptural cliffhanging three-storey glass-clad structure by Revery Architecture integrates and reuses two Grade 3 heritage buildings in a continuous flow of open spaces and shady courtyards around a 75-year-old flame tree.
11. Victoria Dockside (2019)
Ten years in the making, the Kohn Pedersen Fox-designed Victoria Dockside is an ambitious new cultural landmark of multiple buildings including a hotel and residences, avant-garde retail and offices cleverly stitched into a site on the Victoria Harbour waterfront.
It impresses for its audacious architectural theatre, serious sustainability credentials and thoughtful yet adventurous touches, which include a 5,000-sq-m living garden façade, a rooftop garden and farm and sinuous wraparound balconies. Their Instagram-worthy golden KUBE coffee kiosk, designed by OMA’s Rem Koolhaas and David Gianotten, provides an accent of playful brilliance.
See also: 5 Things To Know About Victoria Dockside
12. M+ (2019)
Due for completion in 2020, Herzog & de Meuron’s elegant inverted T-shape design encapsulates the Hong Kong spirit with its dark green-black ceramic glazed tiles, a nod to the traditional Chinese vernacular, and programmable, interactive digital façade.
The many ground-floor entrances lead onto the surrounding landscape garden and pavilions, and a low-slung futuristic mirrored steel structure designed by a trio of young Hong Kong architects: VPANG Architects Ltd, JET Architecture and Lisa Cheung.