The HSBC Main Building – A Landmark Of Modern Architecture

March 31st, 2015 Posted in Global Real Estate

Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank (HSBC) Main BuildingHong Kong & Shanghai Bank (HSBC) Main Building

Anyone visiting Hong Kong will be unable to miss seeing the most expensive skyscraper in the territory and one of the most expensive in the world. Built while Hong Kong was still under the control of Britain, but during the normalisation period during which its return to Chinese control was assured, the headquarters of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation – HSBC for short – is a quite impressive building. Actually, that rather undersells it, as it is one of the most fascinating structures in Asia and the world beyond, for many reasons.

It became apparent that a building such as the HSBC Main Building would be necessary in the 1970s. After more than a century during which headquarters were built, knocked down, moved and rebuilt, in 1978 it was decided that the bank might as well tear down its headquarters which were, in any event, too small to hold all of its departments. People and sections were scattered in far-flung parts of Central Hong Kong and it was felt that a proper headquarters would be needed – one which could hold all departments and provide an element of streamlining to the city. It would take another seven years to have it built, and when it was completed it was the most expensive building in the world. Although it may have since been outstripped in this respect, it is still an impressive edifice.

The final cost of the building is believed to have been 5.2 billion Hong Kong dollars, close to US$670million. The architect who conceptualized the building was none other than the legendary British architect Sir Norman Foster, and it has many of his signature touches, not least its epic size but minimalist design. 30,000 tonnes of steel were used in its construction, and from the outside it is one of those classic skyscrapers that looks like a glass palace. There is good reason for this transparency, too.

The building may have taken place between 1979 and 1985, before ecological concerns became quite as big a consideration and quite as fashionable as they are now. It is, however, an excellent example of how one can build a skyscraper without excessive damage to the environment nor waste of energy. Due to the glass edifice of the exterior and the bank of giant mirrors which sits atop the atrium, much of the indoor lighting is provided naturally. The coolant for the air conditioning inside the building (which can be a godsend in a glass-based structure – is natural sea water.

There are many things which make the HSBC Main Building a building quite unlike any other. Not least of these is the fact that it relies very little on elevators inside the building, and people moving between floors tend to do so by way of escalators instead. This kind of personality makes the building one of considerable interest. Built with the principles of Feng Shui in mind, the building has a vast expanse of open ground in front of it, with only Statue Square separating it from Victoria Harbour, meaning that workers can look out onto water (in Feng Shui this is important for personal wealth. All in all, it is an interesting building indeed.

To streamline and minimize blog maintenance, I will be discontinuing maintaining the website (however, I will still hold the domain). I will gradually move all articles from this site to A Dawn Journal. This article originally published on the above website on July 25, 2009.

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