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Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge

Why architect of Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge’s passenger clearance building looked to nature for inspiration

  • Aedas boss Keith Griffiths wanted to create a unique structure that represented Hong Kong and left visitors feeling at ease
PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 October, 2018, 9:01am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 October, 2018, 10:07am

When visitors marvel at the wavelike architecture of Hong Kong’s passenger clearance building for the world’s longest sea crossing, they might feel a sense of intimacy and connectivity with nature.

That was because the building was created to represent the city and reduce stress for users of the newly opened Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, the designer said.

In an interview with the Post, Keith Griffiths, chairman and global design principal of international architecture firm Aedas, said the two-storey building, sited on a 150-hectare artificial island, would serve as an iconic “front door” to amaze passengers.

“Our primary considerations … were to create a building that was uniquely of and for Hong Kong,” said the Briton, a resident of the city for 35 years.

“How do you create a building not seen anywhere else in the world except Hong Kong?

“The challenge of this building was to create a beautiful piece of well-made architecture that would be a gateway for Hong Kong to be proud of.”

In a joint venture, British firm Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and Aedas designed the building with a total floor area of more than 90,000 square meters, the largest of the boundary crossing facilities at the bridge’s Hong Kong Port.

To also highlight the facility’s function as a crossing point for traffic from the three cities, Griffiths said the team drew inspiration from the sea for the roof’s wavy design.

“The only theme of this building is about Hong Kong, which is very deep-rooted in nature, as it is surrounded by sea and forests amid country parks,” he said.

The undulating roof also symbolised the movement of people.

“The roof waves make it feel like you are coming in with the waves, like you’re surfing … It also signifies the flow of people in waves like water,” he said.

The roof is supported by treelike structural columns to give passengers the impression they are standing beneath a forest canopy.

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Nature was very much in Griffiths’ thoughts.

“As I have lived here for many years, I always think of the country parks and the water, the green, and the woods as something to represent Hong Kong, and also the people of Hong Kong who are very gentle people,” he said.

Four striking shallow pools – 200 metres long and 20 metres wide – on the lower level also had a certain symbolism.

Griffiths said the voids created some distance for passengers to pass through immigration, customs, and retail and dining areas.

He said their function was to separate the three areas, but by removing part of the upper floor to allow natural sunlight in a “poetic” feeling of crossing the water was achieved.

“It symbolises when you’re crossing water, you’re crossing it from [mainland] China to Hong Kong. You have natural light coming down so the view is beautiful,” he said, adding some feng shui concepts had been applied.

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All the design details, including colours and materials, aimed to create a comfortable feeling for passengers so they would be less stressed in an immigration checkpoint facility, Griffiths said.

“We are trying to create an intimate feeling. It has a sense of intimacy and connectivity with nature … that reduces stress levels,” he said.

“So, we have all these primary elements coming together in a very natural way. You feel almost at home in this building. You feel like you’re coming home. So this is the gateway to their home.”

Over the first weekend since the bridge opened on Wednesday, traffic remained sluggish despite a slight rebound. On Saturday, there were a record 2,700 vehicular trips on the bridge, compared with 1,990 on Friday. As of 6pm on Sunday, 2,080 vehicular trips were recorded. Wednesday saw 2,474 vehicular trips.