Venice Biennale 2012: Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank HQ / Foster & Partners

© Nico Saieh

From the architects:

The Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank was designed by Norman Foster in 1979. At the core of the project is the attempt to create a civic space, a piece of common ground for the city. Though the building’s design went through many variations – culminating in the final scheme, completed in 1985 – the common denominator throughout was a desire to create a public arena by lifting the building up to ensure a flow of pedestrian movement across the site. This covered space is lit naturally by an external “sunscoop”, which reflects sunlight down through the glazed “underbelly” of an atrium at the heart of the building. Through the medium of models, sketches, drawings, and photographs, this exhibition shows the evolution of the design of the space and the tower that defines it.

© Nico Saieh

Hong Kong has a very little public space at street level, so this space beneath the bank was conceived in the spirit of the building trying to give something back to the city of which it is a part, as an extension of the civic realm. For most of the time this space is a busy pedestrian thoroughfare – an urban shortcut – taken for granted in the everyday life of the city.

© Nico Saieh

However, on Sundays it is transformed as an outpost for the Filipino domestic workers, as hundreds of maids establish a community, with an extraordinary variety of social activities and intimate spaces created by cardboard walls.

© Nico Saieh

At other times it is a setting for ceremonial events, or a gathering point for political protest. Significantly, the bank stands as the head of Statue Square, a symbolically important location in Hong Kong. The space beneath the building therefore enjoys a reciprocal relationship with the square: one open to the elements, the other sheltered and comfortable year round in all weather.

Curator: Norman Foster
Concept and design: Norman Foster
Artists: Norman Foster, Andreas Gursky, Ben Johnson, John Nye, Marisa González

Production: Elena Ochoa Foster and Antonio Sanz (Ivory Press), Spencer de Grey and Katy Harris ()
Lenders: Andreas Gursky, HSBC, The Norman Foster Foundation, Foster + Partners

With the additional support of: The Norman Foster Foundation

Cite: Saieh, Nico. "Venice Biennale 2012: Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank HQ / Foster & Partners" 05 Oct 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 22 May 2015. <>
  • Donald Tang

    HK is Foster’s home, famous brand, everywhere in HK are foster works, I am not sure why so many of his work not many others.