Architecture and Design

Plan for a self-sustaining building on Hong Kong’s waterfront

A vision for Hong Kong’s waterfront to harbour something truly remarkable

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 February, 2017, 3:27pm
UPDATED : Monday, 04 December, 2017, 12:56pm

(Corrects list of offices in second paragraph)

When a group of Hong Kong-based architects formed 10 Design in 2010, the original partners sought to achieve something with flair and vision.

Billed as an “international partnership of architectural, urban, landscape and interior designers and Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) specialists,” the firm has since expanded rapidly to include offices in Shanghai, Dubai and even Edinburgh as they expand their visionary reach. But what about Hong Kong, the city where it all began?

Design Partner Ted Givens heads 10 Design’s Environmental Research Group and he reports that, for several years, he and the firm have been working on a concept for a Vertical Farm Centre (VFC); a high-rise tower of a similar height to the IFC2 or ICC buildings that would feature a network of plants, shutters and water recycling technology. This would make the building entirely self-sustaining in terms of electricity and water.

The original concept had the VFC located where the giant observation wheel is now located, on the Central waterfront.

However, as HSBC owns the right to the open space in front of their headquarters, the architects at 10 Design instead moved the VFC concept to an area near the Convention Centre in Wanchai, adding in a man-made beach protected by islets that would use artificial coral reefs to purify the harbour water.

As part of the plan, the ferry piers in Central would be rebuilt to include new residential, office or commercial spaces. Added green areas between the IFC and VFC opens up more public recreational space.

One key feature of this vision is to let Victoria Harbour take back some of the reclaimed land, according to Givens.

This involves carving out areas that are currently filled in, and establishing inlets and channels that would permeate the waterfront between Central and Wanchai.

One proposed canal would cut in from Pier 9 in Central, past Jardine House and reach as far inland as the HSBC building. Givens envisions a network of bicycle paths, a specialised tram route and sampans, working much like Venice’s gondolas, carrying people around the site.

The 420-metre-tall Vertical Farm Centre could house residences, hotels, offices and retail outlets. Uniquely, the design also calls for hydroponic greenhouses, adding a total of 172 hectares of farming space.

Waste water and rain capture systems could theoretically also provide water to other buildings. Hydroponic farms would work as a natural cooling system, reducing the need for air conditioning. Balconies on every other floor would provide enough space for trees to grow.

These incredible concepts seem almost too good to be true, particularly in the concrete jungle of central Hong Kong.

Givens is well aware of this, and though he reckons there are sympathetic ears in government and that the commercial benefits are considerable – extending waterways in front of buildings have a way of increasing value – the overall scale of the concept still has too many boundary-pushing elements to be a viable master plan.

One way that 10 Design has addressed this is by seeking small scale “interventions” that could help add up to bigger results down the road.

One example is a small project that Givens and three colleagues are currently working on, to help a small village in The Philippines cope with the ravages of typhoons.

Together, they worked out a design for a market square that can resist high-powered winds, while also providing the village with a safe space to shelter, a market space, electrical power and fresh water. While building this project, they will also be able to test out design elements that would be used in projects such as the VFC.

This is one visionary idea for urban greening and sustainable design that could one day have Hong Kong thinking skywards.

This is the excerpt of an article that appeared in the Jan-Feb 2017 edition of The Peak magazine, available in selected book shops and by invitation