SUPERSTITION & SPECULATION
stories of architecture | part one
Enter Norman Foster. That same year, the executives of the HongKong and Shanghai Bank (HSBC) approached the young British architect to design “the best bank building in the world.” The young and relatively unknown architect had just completed the Willis Faber and Dumas Headquarters in Ipswich - a low-slung, three-story building with an undulating glass facade. The building employed some of the most advanced building innovations of the time - an office escalator system, a leisure rooftop garden, and raised flooring. As it turned out, the heads of HSBC had been impressed, and they would like him to employ a similar architectural strategy in Hong Kong. Anticipating the impending handover of sovereignty to China, the British-owned HSBC, which had essentially acted as the de-facto treasury of the colony, wanted to make a confident statement on future of the city. No matter the outcome of the Sino-British negotiations, HSBC will stay in Hong Kong, along with its form of capitalist banking.
The result of the commission, Mr. Foster’s magnum opus, the HSBC Headquarters, would kickstart a whirlwind boom of high-rise construction in the city. Over, the next two decades, the construction frenzy would lead to the “Feng Shui Wars of Central” - a series of tit-for-tat, architectural one-upmanships between competing developers, individuals, and governments, whose success was measured equally by their architectural ingenuity as well as their adherence to the mystical principles of feng shui.
(Left to Right) 1864 -1964
In Central, Hong Kong’s financial heart, the spiritual dimensions of feng shui is physically manifested in the distinctive corporate offices of the 1980’s and 1990’s. In this examination of the “Feng Shui Wars”, we will focus on four specific buildings, each from a world-renowned architect, that charts the rise and fall of feng shui architecture in the twilight of colonial Hong Kong.