AD Classics: Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank / Foster + Partners

Photo by WiNG1990 -

Envisioned during a perceptive period in the former colonies history, the brief for the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank Headquarters was simple: to create the best bank building in the world. Through a meticulous process of questions and challenges, including the involvement of a feng shui geomancer, Foster + Partners addresses the temperament of banking in Hong Kong and how it should be expressed in built form. By doing so, it virtually reinvented the office tower. More information after the break.

Foster responded to a site which has impressive views of Hong Kong Harbor to the north and Victoria Peak to the south, by creating a forty-seven-story rectangular prism with its long sides oriented to the veiws while mechanical and service functions close off the short east and west elevations.

The requirements 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 in tandem led to the adoption of a suspension structure, with pairs of steel masts arranged in three bays. As a result, the building form is expressed in a stepped profile of three individual towers, respectively twenty-nine, thirty-six, and forty-four stories high, which create floors of varying width and depth and allow for garden terraces.

Photo by jonask -

The mast structure allowed another drastic move, pushing the service cores to the perimeter so as to create deep plan floors around a ten-story atrium. A mirrored “sunscoop” reflects sunlight down through the atrium to the floor of a public plaza below a sheltered space, which on weekends has become a lively picnic spot. From the plaza, escalators rise up to the main banking hall, with its glass underbelly conceived as a shopping window for banking.

Photo by nmichelin -

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. Consequently, over the years, it has been able to reconfigure office layouts with ease, even incorporating a large dealers room into one floor, an arrangement that was not thought possible when the building was designed.

Architects: Foster + Partners
Location: Hong Kong,
Project Year: 1979-1986
References: Foster + Partners
Photographs: Flickr user: jonask, Flickr user: desmonde, Flick user: jrgcastro, Flickr user: nmichelin, Flickr user: B. Tse, Flickr user: The Wandering Angel, Flickr user: WiNG1990


Cite: Pagnotta, Brian. "AD Classics: Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank / Foster + Partners" 02 Aug 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 23 May 2015. <>