Although often taken for granted, transportation infrastructure systems play a fundamental role in connecting people with places and is a key element in the movement of goods and economic development.
For example, when completed in 2015, the 430,000-square-metre West Kowloon Terminus (WKT), with its 15 high-speed tracks, will be the largest below-ground terminus station in the world.
The WKT project is viewed by planners as an indication of ongoing connectivity between Hong Kong and the mainland. When operational, the high-speed railway is expected to reduce travel time between the city and Guangzhou to about 50 minutes, from the current 100 minutes. The facility will also have both custom and immigration controls - unusually, for both Hong Kong and China - for departing and arriving passengers.
Designed by Aedas, a leading international practice with 700 local staff, the WKT is part mass-transit hub and part public park project which required a design highly influenced by civic demand due to the site's proximity to the future West Kowloon Cultural District and Victoria Harbour.
Adding to the challenge was the construction of 400,000 sq m of commercial space on top of the station, which is to be auctioned off to a developer at a later date.
As part of Aedas' local recruitment, it hires university graduates who generally have two years of relevant work experience and have passed the examination set by the Hong Kong Institute of Architects.
The Aedas design team, led by executive director Andrew Bromberg, worked with the firm's research and development and sustainability teams to maximise environmental strategies.
'All design aspects as well as materials and construction methodology were studied and adjusted to achieve optimum lighting, heating and cooling, water and waste systems, and overall efficiency,' says Aedas, which is also responsible for the design of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Centre in New York.
Aedas says the design incorporates a fully functional green roof across the station. The resulting open space is almost five times the area of the already ambitious mandate in the master plan. The green space provides links flowing through the site to a public transport interchange, the Austin MTR station, the Kowloon Station development and the Elements shopping mall, as well as internal links to the WKT and its future commercial development features. The terminus for the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express rail link has been designed to encourage commuters and visitors to take the time to appreciate the surroundings.
'As the 'gateway' to Hong Kong, it was considered vital to connect the station with the surrounding urban context and make one aware of the city's character, whether arriving or departing,' says Bromberg, who won the World Architecture Festival and Cityscape awards this year for his work on the WKT.
'To do this, the design efficiently compacted all of the supporting space to allow for a large void downwards into the departure hall below, with added apertures going down to the track platforms.'
The result is a 45-metre high volume which focuses attention to the south facade with views of the Hong Kong Central skyline, Victoria Peak and beyond.
Aedas is also working on a number of new MTR lines in different parts of Hong Kong, which present unique design and environmental challenges.
'Each new environment sets the stage for re-generation for the community and environment the station is placed within,' says Aedas director Max Connop. 'Our network of global offices operates with an innate understanding of local cultures, building technologies, available materials and climate needs that we apply to every project we work on.'