January 7, 2006
The headquarters of the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) is my favorite skyscraper in Hong Kong, and Norman Foster’s architectural masterpiece facing the south side of Statue Square is still holding up well since its completion in 1985. Foster subsequently designed the humongous Hong Kong International Airport amongst his numerous projects worldwide.
The nearby Bank of China has taken away some of the notoriety away from the slightly older HSBC thanks to its taller and more distinctive shaft, but I firmly believe Foster’s innovative tower of glass, aluminum, and steel is still a better work of architecture. It was a very technologically advanced design, and therefore it was the most expensive skyscraper constructed for its time, with estimated costs at about 1 billion US dollars. It was worth it in my opinion, as its muscular exterior design is majestic without being overly melodramatic. The triangular suspension trusses look vaguely like coat hangers, and indeed they provide structural support that allows the loads of floors to “hang” from them. The exterior is lit up like a candy cane with red-and-white lighting during the holidays, so perhaps this seasonal flashiness can be excused as it vies for attention in the ever-expanding skyline. The futuristic appearance of the tower tops off with some bizarre shapes, which should not detract from the brilliance of the overall design.
The skyscraper has 52 floors and rises to a height of nearly 587 feet. The base of the tower is an open plaza, with lengthy escalators leading to the main banking hall above. Security frowns upon too much loitering, but visitors are provided with color pamphlets and are allowed to take photos of certain areas. The 170-foot-high central atrium rises majestically above the banking hall and plaza, and the structural X-bracings do make their mark on the open-plan offices surrounding the atrium. Great emphasis was placed on natural light, noise reduction, and temperature control in order to create a better working environment for the bank’s employees.
The bank used to sell attractive and inexpensive sets of postcards depicting the glorious features of the building, but unfortunately they do not have any more. Take a rest near the ferocious lion statues that guard the front of the plaza, as they had guarded the previous HSBC for many years. If passing by on a Sunday, you may run into lots of Filipino maids hanging out in the plaza during their off day.
From journal Bill in China - HONG KONG