Building innovation

Updated: 2013-01-28 14:00

By Caroline Berg (China Daily)

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Building innovation

Hysan Place has been certified LEED Platinum for multistory voids, which improve airflow along the streets below.

Anita Chan, director of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in New York, says the city must create sustainable designs that will reduce its urban heat-island effect, improve air quality and provide good storm-water management systems while retaining its visual allure.

Building innovation

Standing debate 

Solomon believes New York shares many of these city-planning considerations.

Further cross-cultural cooperation between these two coastal cities, he adds, would provide mutual benefits in alleviating both cities' urban stress.

One example of such mutual aid includes the new Asia Society Hong Kong Center, completed in 2011.

"The Asia Society building is very important in Hong Kong," Solomon says.

"It is a model for the adaptive reuse of old buildings and a guide for future sustainable development."

New York company Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects reclaimed a colonial-era British army explosives magazine - an artillery storehouse on one of Hong Kong's steep hillsides - to build the Asia Society's new home.

Like other projects the company has completed, including the David Rubenstein Atrium at New York's Lincoln Center (winner of a LEED award, an industry standard for energy-efficient design), the Asia Society building melds Hong Kong's natural jungle with the concrete variety.

According to Ah Hung, Hong Kong structures that represent a symbiosis between the city and nature, or the traditional and the contemporary, are rare. This is evident in the widespread disappearance of old Chinese-style architecture.

Hysan Place, another New York-Hong Kong collaboration, didn't include heritage preservation as a design principle but is considered one of Hong Kong's more sustainable modern buildings.

This skyscraper, certified LEED-Platinum, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, includes sky gardens with views above neighboring rooftops and is punctured by multistory voids that improve airflow on the streets below.

Building innovation

Chinese Lunar New Year decorations

"Developing new buildings in Hong Kong that incorporate aspects of both the urban and the natural is so important," Ah Hung says.

"I think this type of 50-50 nature-to-building ratio should always be used."

Another contemporary concept in Hong Kong is the use of Victoria Harbor as a public recreational space.

"Hong Kong is working on new projects to rebuild its waterfront," Ah Hung says.

"Unfortunately, this is hard to do because the waterfront is already occupied by very important buildings."

Hong Kong's harbor has long been valued for its commercial importance.

"I grew up in Chicago where we have Lake Michigan and so many parks established for the sole purpose of recreation," Solomon says.

"The first time I visited Hong Kong, I was aghast at the lack of public recreational space on Victoria Harbor."

He attributed this difference to Hong Kong's background as first a community of fishing villages and later as a hub for shipping and trade.

The harbor has always been about business, while living on the water was traditionally considered dirty.

Building innovation

Now, Hong Kong's waterfront is the new frontier.

Proposed projects include the relatively simple, such as a Ferris wheel, and the ambitious, like the 40-hectare West Kowloon Cultural District. That area will integrate arts and culture in world-class facilities.

However, when thinking about extreme weather events back home like Hurricane Sandy, Solomon wonders if waterfront development in typhoon-prone Hong Kong is responsible or even feasible.

Yet efforts in cities, including Sydney, Vancouver and Barcelona, are proof that responsible waterfront development can be achieved, he points out.

 As for Solomon and Ah Hung, their shared goal is to generate cross-cultural dialogue among architects and the wider community to realize the best possible designs for their cities.

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