Concebido durante un período delicado de la historia de la antigua colonia, la sinopsis de la sede del Hongkong and Shanghai Bank suponía toda una declaración de confianza: diseñar «la mejor sucursal bancaria del mundo». Mediante un proceso de investigación y cuestionamiento de las ideas preestablecidas, durante el cual se contempló también la filosofía feng shui, el proyecto analizó la naturaleza del sector bancario en Hong Kong y la plasmó en la forma construida. Y podría decirse que prácticamente reinventó la torre de oficinas.

La necesidad de construir más de 90.000 m2 con un calendario ajustado requirió un alto grado de prefabricación y uso de módulos acabados en fábrica. Además, puesto que había que construir en dirección ascendente y descendente al mismo tiempo, se decidió adoptar una estructura suspendida, con pares de mástiles de acero dispuestos en tres crujías. En consecuencia, la forma del edificio se articula en un perfil escalonado de tres torres individuales, de 29, 36 y 44 plantas respectivamente, que crean plantas de anchuras y profundidades distintas y permiten disfrutar de terrazas ajardinadas. La estructura de mástiles permitió dar otro paso radical, ya que desplazó los núcleos de las instalaciones de servicio hacia el perímetro para poder crear así plantas profundas alrededor de un atrio de diez plantas de altura. Un tragaluz tubular de espejo instalado en el tejado refleja la luz natural a través del atrio hasta la planta baja, ocupada por una explanada pública cubierta, que los fines de semana se convierte en un lugar perfecto para hacer picnics. Desde la explanada, unas escaleras mecánicas ascienden al vestíbulo principal del banco, que, con su vientre acristalado, se concibió a modo de «escaparate del banco».

Los «puentes» que se extienden entre los mástiles definen las zonas de recepción de doble altura que fragmentan la escala del edificio tanto visual como socialmente. Un sistema único de circulación a través del edificio combina ascensores de alta velocidad que conducen hasta las zonas de recepción con una serie de escaleras mecánicas que conectan con los diversos grupos de plantas, similares a pequeñas poblaciones. Desde el principio, la prioridad máxima del diseño fue la flexibilidad. Cabe destacar que, con el paso de los años, la disposición interior de las oficinas se ha reconfigurado con facilidad, e incluso se ha incorporado una gran sala para corredores de bolsa en una planta, un aspecto que resultaba imprevisible cuando se diseñó el edificio.

Bocetos y dibujos

Desarrollo

Construcción

Citas

Foster and his team were working on the other side of the world

in another culture with a simultaneously cosmopolitan and native face. In the end, the building was not the creation of electronic international banking, nor a semi-colonial gift from an old power to a younger one; its design grew, more than anything else from an unprecedented act of learning.”Martin Pawley, 1986

Legend has it that Foster received only one directive from the bank director Roy Munden when he won the architectural competition for the job in 1979 - 'build me the best bank in the world'. When the architect got down to business the only other directive that emerged was 'keep it simple'.”Martin Pawley

The Guardian, April 1986

The bank is very fluid in its staff movements. The design had to reflect that and it also had to reflect the changes that are coming into banking. We were the first electronic bank in the Far East and the rest of the world has now caught up; now we are taking a ten-year step and the building has had to reflect that. It has also had to confront everyday changes within the building because we move approximately 50 per cent of this building every year in terms of office accommodation

so flexibility had to be built into the building.”Ray Guy, lecture at the Burrell Museum, Glasgow, January 1986

Many buildings are statements of confidence in the future

so they are inextricably linked to the political processes which generate their need, and some of that is really highly symbolic. The Bank was certainly no exception. It was a very considered move, as a vehicle to enhance the prosperity of that particular bank, which has since moved dramatically into the world league. But it was also a symbol of confidence in the future of the colony.”Norman Foster, lecture at Glasgow Royal Conference hall, 8 May 1997

The Bank… is the most astonishing expression of the nation of architecture as a prefabricated industrial process

in which the highest objective I the creation of highly serviced, limitlessly flexible, non-hierarchical internal spaces. And in which format values are eschewed in favour of exteriors that are made legible – which express how they are made and what they do.”Deyan Sudjic, Blueprint, November 1985

There is a lot more that is Gothic than Classical in all this structural and spatial magic

contrary statements about Foster’s work notwithstanding. If the ‘medieval’ services towers, ‘flying braces’ and ‘incomplete’ appearance of the building had not already promoted the idea, then the soaring proportions of the atrium (read more) and the great translucent eastern window, easily justify the building’s popular description as a ‘cathedral of commerce.’Chris Abel, the Architectural review, April 1986

The bank’s Second Machine Age technology may be global

but the structural expression and spatial qualities are distinctly Pacific, if not precisely local; lightweight floating floors and delicate transparent screens against a massive aggressive supporting structure: Madam Butterfly meets Godzilla.”Chris Abel Architecture and Identity: Responses to Cultural and Technological Change, 2000

The aesthetic of the Hongkong Bank is wholly a result of its method of construction

an aesthetic that is not confined to the exterior, but permeates the whole internal life of the building. At every suspended in the sky, every visible structural component evidently has an important role within the load-bearing capacity. It is both earnest and restless, and quite unlike a conventional office tower, where big efforts are made to make the internal spaces as neutral as those found in any low-rise building.”High Pearman, Contemporary world Architecture, 1998

Foster’s 1985 tower for the Hongkong and Shanghai bank in Hong Kong reversed the general dogma that a high-rise office block had to have a sold central core; it is not a ‘block’ but a frame a vertical web whose generous

open ground floor level has become a Sunday gathering spot for Hong Kong’s Filipina maids. It has probably done more to change the way people think about what Foster calls ‘the culture of office buildings’ and the relation of the corporate with the public domain in the city’s matrix, than any other twentieth century structure.”Robert Hughes, Time magazine, 19 April 1999

By lifting the main body of the building above the ground and creating a glass underbelly we allowed banking to be seen as a dynamic activity; the banking hall becomes a showcase to be viewed from the plaza below.”Norman Foster

Communication again; the building is the village

the office group is the community, the escalator is the lane. In Foster’s imagery, you could call them that.”Stephen Gardiner, the Listener, February 1983

In the congested centre of Hon Kong

the Bank unfurls from the sky, like a mechanised Jacob’s Ladder, and touches the ground.’Peter Conrad, The Observer Magazine, 11 April 1999

Datos y cifras

  • Adjudicación: 1979
  • Finalización: 1986
  • Superficie: 99 000m²
  • Altura: 183m
  • Capacidad: 8800
  • Cliente: Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation
  • Ingeniero estructural: Ove Arup & Partners
  • Supervisor de cantidades: Northcroft Neighbour & Nicolson with Levett & Bailey
  • Ingeniero de M+E: Roger Preston & Partners
  • Arquitecto Paisajista: Technical Landscapes Ltd
  • Ingeniero de iluminación: Claude and Danielle Engle Lighting/Bartenback Wagner Lichttechnische Planung GmbH
  • Consultores adicionales: Project Planning Group, Jolyon Drury Consultancy, Cini-Little Associates, Dieter Jaeger / Quickborner Team, Humberside Maintenance Systems, John Lok / Wimpey Joint Venture, Boundary Layer Wind Tunnel Laboratory, University of Western Ontario, Mass Transit Railway, Fitch & Chung, Professor Eric Lye

Premioss

  • PA Innovations Award
  • Quaternario Award for Innovative Technology in Architecture
  • Institution of Structural Engineers Special Award
  • Structural Steel Award
  • Marble Architectural Awards East Asia
  • R.S. Reynolds Memorial Award administered by the AIA
  • Premier Architectural Award at the Royal Academy, London

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