Hongkong and Shanghai Bank Building

The building was designed by the British architect Norman Foster. From the concept to completion, it took 6 years (1979-1985). The building is 180-metres high with 47 storeys and four basement levels. The building has a module design consisting of five steel modules prefabricated in the UK by Scott-Lithgow Shipbuilders near Glasgow, and shipped to Hong Kong. 30,000 tonnes of steel and 4,500 tonnes of aluminium were used. It was an urban legend 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.
The main characteristic of HSBC Hong Kong headquarters is its absence of internal supporting structure. Another notable feature is that natural sunlight is the major source of lighting inside the building. There is a bank of giant mirrors at the top of the atrium, which can reflect natural sunlight into the atrium and hence down into the plaza. Through the use of natural sunlight, this design helps to conserve energy. Additionally, sun shades are provided on the external facades to block direct sunlight going into the building and to reduce heat gain. Instead of fresh water, sea water is used as coolant for the air-conditioning system.

All flooring is made from lightweight movable panels, under which you can find a comprehensive network of power, telecommunication, and air-conditioning systems. Hence installation of equipment or computer terminals becomes far easier.

The requirement to build in excess of one million square feet in a short timescale suggested a high degree of prefabrication, including factory-finished modules, while the need to build downwards and upwards simultaneously led to the adoption of a suspension structure, with pairs of steel masts arranged in three bays. As a result, the building form is articulated in a stepped profile of three individual towers, respectively twenty-nine, thirty-six and forty-four storeys high, which create floors of varying width and depth and allow for garden terraces. The mast structure allowed another radical move, pushing the service cores to the perimeter so as to create deep-plan floors around a ten-storey atrium. A mirrored sunscoop reflects sunlight down through the atrium to the floor of a public plaza below a sheltered space that at weekends has become a lively picnic spot. From the plaza, escalators rise up to the main banking hall, which with its glass underbelly was conceived as a shop window for banking.

The bridges that span between the masts define double-height reception areas that break down the scale of the building both visually and socially. A unique system of movement through the building combines high-speed lifts to the reception spaces with escalators beyond, reflecting village-like clusters of office floors. From the outset, the Bank placed a high priority on flexibility. Interestingly, over the years, it has been able to reconfigure office layouts with ease, even incorporating a large dealers room into one floor – a move that could not have been anticipated when the building was designed.
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