Alan Fitch and Ron Philips
Edinburgh Place, Central
In 1947, a local committee was organized to explore the possibility of building a new city hall for Hong Kong that would promote what many believed to be the city’s revitalized role as an economic and cultural nexus between Europe and Asia after World War II. Eventually completed in 1962, the City Hall represented a striking addition to the Central waterfront. In their attempt to emphasize the city’s postwar dynamism and cultural cosmopolitanism, project architects Alan Fitch and Ron Phillips achieved a distillation and manifestation of several of the Modern Movement’s founding aesthetic principles. Key modern elements can be detected in an overall emphasis on bold and clear geometric forms, the efficient circulation pattern linking the complex’s two buildings and garden together, each building’s material interplay of concrete, granite, and glass, and the gridded transparencies they generate, particularly in the main tower’s north and south facades.
These identifying characteristics helped to set the building apart from the staid neoclassicism of its predecessor or its neighboring Hong Kong club and reposition it in relation to the architectural and urban trends simultaneously taking place in cities like London, New York, and Tokyo. Although critics would lament the building’s failure to engage with Hong Kong’s cultural identity, the City Hall’s unadorned elegance and functional efficiency were seen as appropriate to its status as a modern, more culturally inclusive public institution. In this respect, the building sought to mark a new era, not only in the city’s social history, but in its colonial architectural development.