It Is A High Rise World Out Here

I live in the jungle. But I work in the Concrete Jungle. And man… it is a jungle out there. I would say it is cool, but that is clearly not the case in the subtropical summer… nor could it ever be the case if you are familiar with the urban heat island effect, which is always in full effect in Hong Kong. Suffice it to say that it is, at the very least… stimulating.

One of the most famous buildings in Hong Kong is I.M. Pei’s Bank of China Tower. Pei is pretty cool, and not just because of his specs. Born in Guangzhou and educated (and later naturalized) in America, Pei has designed a lot of really cool shit (seen that pyramid outside the Louvre?) and has a unique style of melding naturally occurring concepts with modern design. In true Chinese fashion interestingly, his dad was the Director of the B.O.C. at one point, so his selection to design the iconic tower was a perfect culmination of the family’s connection with the Bank. The B.O.C tower is inspired by bamboo with the segmented design, and I never tire of looking at it, but it has caused some controversy in the HK. First of all, the two masts that stick out from the top are very bad feng shui. In fact, some say it represents death, or offending the dead. (By the way, do not stick your chopsticks in a rice bowl in that same manner – very bad, la, disrespectful of ancestral worship.) Additionally, all of the angles have led to it being described as a ‘cleaver building’ and it is quite clear that the cleaver is pointing at the neighboring Hon Kong & Shanghai Bank Tower next door. Coincidence? I am not sure. The B.O.C. describes the feng shui very differently: “a harmonious blend of modern design and traditional Chinese architecture.” The 70-floor edifice was the tallest building in Asia for a while from it’s completion in 1989 until 1992. It is now #3 in Hong Kong. I still think it is completely kick ass. I chose to bank there when I first came to HK strictly on the basis of that building. The inconvenient ATM situation and my non-need for RMB eventually changed that.


The Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank Tower is pretty much awesomeness realized. Designed by British architect Lord Norman Foster, et al, it is 47 stories high, with four basements and does not rely primarily on elevators but instead escalators to connect the floors. 30,000 tons of steel and 4,500 tons of aluminum were used in the construction of the building which took six years, coming to completion in 1985. It is rumored that the building’s modular design enables it to be dismantled and moved, if there was any possibility of a disrupted handover to the People’s Republic of China. It seriously looks like something from the Erector Set school of design, from the side it looks like three – um… I don’t know, three flat things tenuously standing next to each other. In fact, one of it’s distinguishing characteristics (aside from the fact that NO concrete was used in the construction) is the absence of internal supporting structure. It is also a pretty “green” building; the primary light source is actually natural light, all the windows are shaded to reduce heat gain and sea water is used in the a/c system. This building is supposed to have very good feng shui, mostly because of it’s full view of the harbor (except of course for the bad mojo apparently emanating from the B.O.C. Tower…)

Oh, and it was mostly pre-fab… so there, design snobs.


The Cheung Kong Center is supposed to have the best feng shui in town, but I don’t have any idea why… symmetry? It has some pretty cool features, not the least of which is that it is a perfect square and completely lit by fiber-optics on the outside. Sometimes it is nearly invisible at night as well, which is pretty bitchin’. The CK Center was supposed to adsorb the negative feng shui of the B.O.C. (The three buildings featured here for a little triumvirate of awesomeness in Central.) It was built for Li Ka Shing, who live(d) on the top floor of the 62 story tower. Oh, and a few months ago when that human spider man guy, Alain Robert, came to town he climbed it and didn’t get fined because the owner chose not to file a complaint, so apparently they are sort of chill over there.

There are tons more buildings worth checking out in HK, and I find the suburbs especially crazy. But most importantly, at least in Hong Kong we are not doing it like they do in Shanghai… Umm… oops?

(more photos here… I wonder how sales in the neighboring towers are going…)

About Amanda

I am repatriating expatriate trying to work it all out. Well, to work some of it out anyhow. I am writing here for sanity, focus and general over-sharing.
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2 Responses to It Is A High Rise World Out Here

  1. idriss says:

    Again, really impressive visuals. This is not just my opinion, but echoed as well by my fellow library patrons. I wish I could live in a place where I’m surrounded by cool-looking tall buildings, *sigh*…

    For real though, the urban heat island effect is no joke! The open-air brick-oven pizzeria makes for a sweaty face which seems to attract the airborne grime of the summertime- necessitating trips to the nearest clean restroom to quickly douse one’s self with water to let the skin breathe again.

    Building designers here need a lesson or six in feng shui. There are countless new skyscrapers going up, but precious few people seem to know or even care about them. Condo buildings no one can afford, office buildings which may be radically different from one another up top but whose bland lobbies look the same from one to the next to us down below, and the occasional twenty-first century redesign of a pre-existing spot- new life breathed into it by an investment group hoping to make something out of… something.

    The contrast of your two jungle environments is cool though… escape from one into the other at will, when the mood hits. Nice to have that option.

  2. Pingback: The shit is overwhelming. | Really?? Yes. Really.

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