Development of Modern Architecture in Hong Kong.
Author: Edward Leung. 作者：梁以華
Date: June 2013. 日期：2013年6月
Case Study 4: Footbridge Systems in Central
Building / Site: Central
Theme: Mobility and Efficiency
Ownership: Hongkong Land.
Architect (original building): P&T Architects.
Architect (recent years alterations): Aedas Ltd.
Year of Construction: Varies, since1964; recent re-configuration: 1998.
Modernist Architectural Dream of City of Footbridges:
The scene of pedestrian footbridges in Central District of Hong Kong today may seem ordinary to contemporary residents of Hong Kong, but on closer examination, expresses an urban fabric rarely seen in other cities. Such unique urban planning indeed arose from a history of innovative collaboration between developers and government, inspired by a rich international heritage of architectural and city planning ideas.
The architectural image of transparent footbridges crisscrossing in mid-air between mega-buildings presented by Fritz Lang in his movie, Metropolis, in 1927, was one of the most vivid inspirations of urban architecture of the 20th Century. This idea appears to have promoted by two main factors of the beginning of the century. On the social front, urban communities were confident that modern urban life is about proficient transportation of people across city, free and democratic movement across all spaces for all, and integration of work and leisure at all physical and social dimensions. On the technical front, long-span footbridges, large air-conditioned indoor spaces, moldable glass enclosures to roofs and walls, and mega-buildings hollowed in the middle to house circulation spaces, gave birth to footbridges and large atrium. However the image of Manhattan with flying bridges never materialized as the US economy was soon to be shadowed by the subsequent recession.
Such set back by New York designers was nevertheless re-ignited by young British architects in 1960s, known as Archigram, determined to fully exploit the social agenda and engineering will of Modernism, to create mega-structures of multi-level spaces where people can meander across mid-air, seamlessly from outdoors to indoors. As depicted by US Architecture Critic Michael Sorkin, this vision “was clearly democratic, … (the architects) argued that an architecture based on Mobility and Malleability could set people free”. However, as demonstrated in their very few built examples, as in apart from footbridge system of the South Bank ensemble built in Festival Britain in 1951 and University of East Anglia in 1960s (both by Sir Denys Lasdun), the idea was only feasible if the connected buildings and roads in between are of same ownership, thus severely limiting its viability in modern urban context as it was originally intended. But this limitation was exactly the reason why it succeeded in Hong Kong where few other cities could.
美國建築評論員Michael Sorkin指出，這個理念「無疑是民主的，…(建築師)辯稱以流動性和可塑性發展出來的建築能夠將人民釋放」。然而，從他們極少建成的例子可見，如1951年大英博覽會時所建的倫敦南岸和1960年代東雅格利郡大學的行人天橋系統 (兩者之建築師均為拉斯頓所爵士)，這個意念衹有當要連接的建築及橋樑均屬同一業權才可行，因而嚴重限制了它原意在現代城市環境中的實施。但是這個限制正正就是香港能夠成為少數可以使這意念成功的城市之一的原因。
In 2008, the Skyscraper Museum of New York held an exhibition called “Multi-level City”, depicting the case study of Hong Kong as a city connected by pedestrian walkways at various levels, praising the achievements of both developers and designers of the footbridge systems of Hong Kong, which “realized the prophecies of New York architects” as visioned in 1920s.
Heritage of Footbridge Designs in Hong Kong:
The first air-conditioned footbridge in Hong Kong appeared in 1963 across Chater Road in Central, spanning between Princes Building and Mandarin Hotel. Its span of 22m across a street at that time was already an achievement, and the air-conditioned linkage between two luxurious premises offered comfort in the hot climate.
In 1974 then tallest building in Hong Kong, Connaught Building (now renamed Jardine House), was built. The associated footbridge, connects the core of Central with this new reclamation district. The purity of the rectangular tower form of Connaught Building could not be compromised by a bridge interfering its façade. Thus the footbridge was designed to float and penetrate just through the giant columns transparent double-storey foyer.
在1974年當時最高的建築物康樂大廈 (現為怡和大廈) 落成。其相應的行人天橋將這新填海區與中環核心聯系。康樂大廈的純正方型塔樓，不能讓天橋干擾其主建築形態，因此行人天橋就被設計為浮在空中，在大廈巨柱之間插進通透的雙層大堂的結構。
The construction of the underground railway system in Hong Kong, known as MTR, since 1975, decisively drove the urban scene from then on. The redevelopment of Alexandra House in 1974 incorporated the Central Station directly beneath. Its podium arcade effectively acted as a node, linking the underground public spaces of the station courses, with the footbridges high above the streets of Central, with effective arrangement of escalators, into a system of pedestrian system, to reach other blocks and buildings in Central. Escalator, as first introduced to Hong Kong in 1957 in Man Yee Building in Central, designed by First Generation Modernist Master of China, Chu Bin, proved to be popular as Modern symbol of efficient Mobility in this highly commercial city.
The Alexandra House redevelopment, together with the subsequent Landmark Development in 1979-82, paved the way to make Hong Kong the real first multi-strata metropolis in the world where pedestrians can meander along bridges and tunnels through buildings and streets. The only other city with such sophisticated integration is probably Tokyo, where the multi-level Shinjuku Station Complex is made up of a network of footbridges and underground arcades.
Various owners of commercial premises in Central followed suit in 1980s-90s, and negotiated amongst each other, and facilitated by favorable government policies, constructed footbridges and linkages to expand the system to World Wide House, Standard Chartered Bank, Bank of East Asia, Central Building, and Entertainment Building. AIG Tower (now AIA Center) built in 2005 provided a new footbridge from Chater Garden, bringing public from the business core of Central to the future regeneration of the City Hall ensemble across Connaught Road.
許多中環商業地點的業主在1980-90年代跟隨，互相協商，及得到有利的政府政策相助，建造了將系統伸延至環球大廈、渣打銀行、東亞銀行、中建大廈及娛樂行的天橋及通道。建於2005年之AIG 大廈(現為AIA中心) 提供了與遮打花園的連接，為將中環商業中心之公眾帶到干諾道中對面未來再生的大會堂建築羣去。
On the other hand, the government further connects the footbridge system to public parks and pedestrianized zones, allowing no-car pedestrian movement from Admiralty to Sheung Wan, and also to the Central-mid-level Escalator System. On reflection, footbridges are meant to serve pedestrians and users of the buildings in the city, thus could never have worked if footbridges were solely built on government owned pavements and if not connected through to the public areas within adjoining private buildings. The success of the system in Hong Kong demonstrated the importance of cooperation between developers and the government.
Innovative Renovation Enhancing Architectural Characters:
Recent years renovations of these walkway systems offer an opportunity to re-assess its forgotten architectural and urban design values.
The apparent dullness of the Connaught Road footbridges belies its original innovative engineering design, which the architect re-presented this aspect in its renovation in 1999 by means of lighting and ceiling configurations. The bridge to Connaught Building, once the longest span footbridge in Hong Kong, was designed as an innovative series of concrete rings. The architect removed its mundane ceiling, and introduced recessed ceiling lights, to express the rhythm of the rings. The bridge in front of Exchange Square was designed as series of Y-shaped structures to minimize obstructions to pedestrians, but later badly obscured by the utilitarian rows of fluorescent tubes. The architect converted such to uplights to celebrate the highly sculptural fish-bone structures.
干諾道行人天橋表面沉悶的外貌掩飾了它原來創意的工程設計。1999年為它裝修的建築師以燈光及天花組合重新展示了它。接駁到康樂大廈的天橋曾經是香港最長跨道的行人天橋，以一排創新的混凝土結構圈組成。建築師拆去它無趣的天花，引入凹槽天花燈，以表達這些圈的韻律。交易廣場前的橋當年是以一排 Y 字形的結構造成，以減少對行人的阻礙，無奈後來被功能性的一排排光管阻擋住。建築師將它換為向上之燈光，以頌揚這些富雕塑性的魚骨狀結構。
Few designers realize that the most visible surface of a footbridge is actually the ceiling and not the floor or wall. Progressive renovations of the enclosed footbridges between Alexandra House, Landmark, Princes Building and Chater House in past decade continued to utilize the interesting interplay of lighting effects and ceiling surfaces, to offer innovative inverted pictures to passer-bys on the streets, and enrich the visual effect of the city.
Innovative Renovation Enhancing Idea of Mobility in Indoor Public Space:
The major re-configuration of retail podium portions of both Alexandra House in 2003 and Landmark in 2005 enabled the re-examination of the potentials of these two premises, in terms of both development and architectural design. Most of the less successful indoor arcades suffer from obscure connectivity and loss of directional sense. In this case, architect and developer explored bold opportunities to re-configure the internal circulation patterns of several buildings, even to the extent of major structural alterations to create new voids, re-adjust floor levels, re-arrange escalators, and reshuffle tenant spaces.
One example is the re-alignment of escalators, arcades and entrances in Alexandra House, so that pedestrians, while strolling along footbridges, can get a glimpse of the daylight across the other side of the building, thus strengthening the sense of direction, and enhancing the attraction to walk across the space. Another example is the demolition of the old Landmark East Tower, to open up the Landmark Atrium onto Queens Road Central. Yet another is the re-configuration of horizontal routes and vertical circulation In Princes Building to achieve better visual connections between the three major footbridges to Alexandra House, Standard Chartered Bank and Mandarin Hotel. In all cases, such innovative re-planning achieved even more efficient retail areas despite the widening and easing of public passages.
The footbridges and the connected retail areas in Central form an integrated architecture. “The assemblage of distinct commercial properties into a seamless retail atmosphere is achieved through aesthetic integration of all the bridges, as well as the creation of a constant and mechanically regulated micro-climate – a seamless air conditioned volume of air”. (Gutierrez, Laurent, and Portefax, Valerie “HK Lab 2”, Map Book Publishers, 2005, p245). Starting from 2013, the various outdoor and footbridge entries of various Hongkong Land buildings are further renovated to enhance the integrated branding image of the retail ensemble. Hongkong Land also progressed to renovate and open up toilets in the arcades of Landmark, Princes Building and other premises, to cater for the evolving demographics of community and visitors, making the premises an integral experience with adequate public facilities.
中環的行人天橋與相連的零售樓面形成一個整體的建築。「把分別的商業物業集結成一個無縫的零售大氣層，要通過所有天橋的美學組合，也依靠製造一個恆久而由機械控制的室內氣候 – 一鼓無縫的的空調容體」。(Gutierrez及Portefax, 《香港實驗室2》，2005, p245)。由2013年開始，置地公司的建築的各室外及橋上入口將再裝修以改進零售組羣的整體品牌形象。置地公司亦進而將置地廣場、太子大廈及其他大廈的商業場地的公共洗手間的翻新及開放予公眾，以照顧社會及賓客的人口蛻變，令這些場地成為擁有足夠公共設施的整體享受。
The continuous renovations of these buildings include adding of ramps, escalators and mechanical lifting platforms, to connect the existing floors of different levels for the benefits of disabled persons and parents with prams. The dedication of vehicle layby on Queens Road Central made the whole pedestrian system easily accessible by members of public. All these improvements were recognized by the Hong Kong Institute of Architects Annual Award of 2005 in the category of Accessibility. The integrated indoor public passage system of Central of Hong Kong, which connects the network of footbridges, commercial public spaces, and underground concourses, is a unique architectural and urban design masterpiece. When architect and developer acknowledge its historic inspiration, and proceed with continuous innovative upgrading and extension, it deserves attention and appreciation.