In 1997, sovereignty over Hong Kong was transferred from the British, who had ruled the colony since its foundation in 1842, to China. In the 15 years since the handover, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) has been governed under a principle known as “One Country Two Systems.” Long a colony of refugees, and later a hub for global business and trade, Hong Kong is forging a new identity as a Chinese city with unique characteristics.
Fueled by a famously free economy, and reputation as a gateway to China, Hong Kong has continued to grow over the past 15 years. Constrained by a geography of steep islands and narrow peninsulas, the city’s architects and engineers have produced increasingly sophisticated solutions to accommodating extreme density with innovative architecture and infrastructure, expanding the public realm into three dimensions. At the same time, groups advocating for improved quality of life, greater community participation in the decisions that affect the environment, and increased efforts to preserve the city’s cultural heritage, have sought to define Hong Kong through the civic engagement of its citizens. Public space is the stage on which Hong Kong’s new identity will emerge.
US architects designed signature buildings in Hong Kong before the handover, such as I.M. Pei’s iconic Bank of China.
In the past 15 years, the participation of American firms and partnerships with local architects resulted in valuable professional and cultural exchanges.
The three projects featured in the exhibition are by New York architects and were completed after the handover. They represent the diverse ways in which this dynamic city has expanded the public realm.
The International Financial Centre (IFC), Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects (2004), complex blends tower and city, connecting seamlessly into a network of transit hubs and shopping arcades.
Hysan Place, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (2012), mixes vertical retail with skygardens to provide open spaces in a dense neighborhood.
The Asia Society, Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects (2012), preserves a heritage building for cultural programming on a site at the edge between tropical jungle and dense urbanism.
Hong Kong at 15: Redefining the Public Realm is organized by the AIA New York Chapter in collaboration with the AIANY Global Dialogues Committee, and The Hong Kong Economic & Trade Office in recognition of Hong Kong’s 15th Anniversary.
Curator: Jonathan Solomon
Graphic Design: Remake
Photography: Chan Yiu Hung
Hong Kong at 15: Redefining the Public Realm is made possible through the generous support of the 2013 AIANY Chapter Inaugural Fund.