The Practice Space

The Royal Institute of British Architects

66 Portland Place, London

30 October to 26 November 2014


Tall Storeys Evolution in Hong Kong Architecture - 1965 to 2014 presents the story of Hong Kong through its architecture.  Using materials from the archives of the Hong Kong Institute of Architects (HKIA), Tall Storeys charts the development of Hong Kong’s distinctive built environment through the HKIA Annual Awards, granted in recognition of the outstanding achievements of Hong Kong’s architects.  The exhibition presents selected projects recognized by the awards in addition to other projects of outstanding architectural significance from 1965 to the present day, locating them within the original social, economic and regulatory frameworks of the time, to provide visitors with a holistic overview of Hong Kong and its evolution through its architecture.

From 1965, the year in which the HKIA Annual Awards were inaugurated, the jury-selected projects have reflected key trends in the development of Hong Kong’s built environment.  Having one of the deepest natural maritime ports in the world bordered by a terrain dominated by hills and mountains, scarcity of land has left Hong Kong currently ranked seventh in the world in terms of population density.  The exhibition considers some of the early projects that dealt with this perennial challenge including the seminal high density residential project Choi Hung Estate (Silver Medal, 1965), which recognized the adoption of the archetypal “slab blocks” of the 1960s with their long corridor layouts and communal bathroom and kitchen facilities as an expedient response to the overwhelming demographic change that had taken place in post war Hong Kong.  The Choi Hung low-cost mass housing solution formed the basis for the Hong Kong Housing Authority’s unprecedented public housing programme, which, to this day, provides affordable housing for millions of Hong Kong residents.  The early 1970s also saw the creation of self-contained developments, encompassing commercial centres, transportation links and facilities, and community and recreational facilities, models created for the so-called “new towns” in Hong Kong’s relatively undeveloped New Territories.  Other key technical developments of the time such as the deployment of the “scissor staircases” made possible the compact high-rise tower block podia introduced in the 1960s and 1970s such as the Hung Hom Bay Centre (Silver Medal, 1980). With its landscaping, water features and greenery, the Hung Hom Centre reflected the demands of the private sector, the growth of which coincided with Hong Kong’s rapid industrialization over the same period.

In the light of Hong Kong’s major investment and advancement in infrastructure during the 1980s with the opening of the the Mass Transit Railway, the exhibition considers the impact of mass mobility on the landscape.  A period of intense urbanization and densification, the 1980s saw the evolution of a new model for high-rise, high density developments combining several mutually supportive uses built in conjunction with MTR stations, creating a network of new urban centres.  Tall Storeys also reveals how Hong Kong’s unique conditions gave rise to practical yet ingenious solutions.  For example, since the 1990s, architects and city planners have continued to experiment with ways to improve efficiency and accessibility to high traffic areas, creating multilayered access to key buildings and transportation hubs by creating a network of elevated walkways.  The award-winning projects of the 1980s, including the luxury office and retail complex The Landmark (Silver Medal, 1982) commercial projects such as Exchange Square (Silver Medal, 1985) housing the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, and educational and leisure projects such as The Academy for Performing Arts (Honourable Mention, 1985) and the Hong Kong International School (Certificate of Merit, 1989) also marked the transition of Hong Kong’s key industries from manufacturing to logistics and global financial services.

Whilst awardees also included residential and commercial projects reflecting the property booms of the 1990s, the same period is notable for the number of awards granted to projects relating to culture and education and to the elevation of Hong Kong as an international or “world city”, , with the high profile opening of Hong Kong International Airport (Silver Medal, 1998), particularly in view of the city’s transition from British colony to Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China in 1997. On a broader level, the exhibition also considers the impact of the new transit-oriented development initiative, essentially a fine tuning of the mixed use MTR networked development model first seen in the 1980s.  A decade on,with existing land resources depleted, the new districts of West Kowloon, Olympic, Tsing-Yi and Tung Chung were built largely on reclaimed land to the west of Hong Kong, following the route of the Tung Chung MTR Line, Hong Kong’s main artery to the airport.

An outstanding feature of the last decade of architecture in Hong Kong is the recognition through the HKIA Awards of architectural ties with Mainland China.  Notwithstanding the legislative and economic borders between Hong Kong and Mainland China under the “one country – two systems” policy, there has been much speculation in the last decade over the creation of a “megacity” linking Hong Kong with its neighbours of the Pearl River Delta and construction is currently underway of the highly significant Hong Kong-Macau-Zhuhai Bridge and express rail link connecting Hong Kong with Beijing.  The HKIA Annual Awards for the years 2000 to the present day mark Hong Kong’s position both as a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China and as a world city, with the creation of the award for Members Works Outside of Hong Kong recognizing projects such as the Guangdong Museum (Award for Members’ Works Outside of Hong Kong, 2009). The awards of the last decade also reflect wider public concerns with the conservation and adaptive re-use of heritage buildings.

Tall Storeys chronological and thematic approach highlights the new unique typologies created by Hong Kong architects in response to the most pressing concerns of the day and how these concerns combined to determine the architectural agendas of each stage of Hong Kong’s development.

About the Organiser the Hong Kong Institute of Architects

Established in 1956, the HKIA aims to advance architectural education and practices in Hong Kong as well as to promote and facilitate the acquisition of knowledge of the various arts and sciences connected therewith. The Institute is committed to raising the standard of architectural creativity in Hong Kong, maintaining code of professional conduct among members, providing services to the public and nurturing architectural talents by offering courses and counsel in professional practice and practical experience in architecture. To take Hong Kong to the fore in international circle, HKIA is also actively engaged in various international union and council. The institute has been the Organizer of Hong Kong Exhibition at Venice Biennale International Architecture Exhibition since 2006.

About the Producer

SKY YUTAKA is a Hong Kong-based architectural design studio founded by architects Yutaka Yano and Sarah Kwok Yan Lee who have over fifteen years of professional experience in multidisciplinary international architecture practices in both Europe and Asia. Having graduated from The Bartlett, UCL Faculty for the Built Environment, London, and practiced as architects in London for number of years, both partners relocated to Hong Kong in 2005 to focus on design projects in Asia, including Hong Kong, China, Japan and Singapore.

The studio specializes in providing architectural design consultancy services rooted in design research.  Working in close collaboration with the client, the strength of the practice lies in its ability to introduce and formulate unique ideas from a fresh perspective. Producing project-specific designs using careful analysis of the characteristics arising from the circumstances of each project, together with technical knowledge and aesthetic judgment, SKY YUTAKA has developed a solid track record for its creation of strategic design solutions.

Leading Sponsor

Create Hong Kong, the Government of HKSAR 

Venue Partner and Supporting Organization

The Royal Institute of British Architects

Gold Sponsor

Urban Renewal Authority

Special Sponsor

Andrew Lee King Fun & Associates Architects Ltd

Education Partner

Continuing Professional Development, The Royal Institute of British Architects

Branding and Graphics Partner


Special Partner


Media Partner

Perspective Ltd

Supporting Organizations

Development Bureau

Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office, London

Hong Kong Housing Authority

Hong Kong Trade Development Council

Lands Department, the Government of HKSAR

Construction Industry Council

International Building Press

Hong Kong Baptist University

The Chinese University of Hong Kong

The University of Hong Kong

The Hong Kong Institute of Landscape Architects

The Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors

The Institution of Structural Engineers