Structure: Central Plaza
Location: Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Height: 374 m
Architect: Dennis Lau & Ng Chun Man Architects & Engineers (HK) Ltd.
Main Contractor: Manloze Limited
Soaring above the Hong Kong skyline at almost 1,300 feet, the Central Plaza, or colloquially called, ‘The Big Syringe’ is the third tallest skyscraper in the entirety of Hong Kong. Developed by Sun Hung Kai Properties Limited and structurally engineered by famed architecture firm Arup, the tower was also the single tallest building in Asia from 1992 to 1996, until it was surpassed by the Shun Hing Square in neighbouring Shenzhen. It also surpassed the angular Bank of China tower as the tallest structure in the city.
With it being increasingly apparent that Hong Kong required a world-class exhibition centre, and with demand for commercial space near Wan Chai skyrocketing, the Hong Kong Government began reclaiming from Victoria Harbour in the 1970s, and the land for what is now Central Plaza was auctioned off at City Hall Theatre near the end of the 80s.
The Provisional Airport Authority, which operates the venerable Hong Kong International Airport was the first prominent tenant to agree to a lease in the building, spanning three floors from the 24th to the 265h. Lately, the Amazing Race 2 reality TV show also featured the Central Plaza, particularly the Sky Lobby on the 46th floor although erroneously claiming it to be the tallest building in Hong Kong. Furthermore, the skyscraper also boasts the world’s tallest church within a skyscraper, Sky City Church, which is nestled in the golden ‘pyramid’ of the structure.
The building is composed of two main parts: the office tower as well as a podium block, the office tower features a tower base of 30.5-meters high, a rare sight in space-cramped Hong Kong. This base houses a majestic fountain and on the first floor, contains pedestrian bridges connecting the China Resource Building to the Mass Transit Railway, Hong Kong’s renowned metro system and to the behemoth Convention and Exhibition Centre, cementing its status as a hub for trade and transport.
Additionally, the skyscraper’s seemingly triangular structure presented unique benefits but also posed severe drawbacks to operations as a whole. Although not a true triangular shape since the edges are chamfered, the largely triangular structure would allow 20% more tenants to have views of the mesmerizing Victoria Harbour as opposed to a square or rectangular layout, crucial since the structure’s gargantuan size and its formidable cost meant that the developers had profit maximization in mind. This also allows an overall usable floor area efficiency of 81%, a benefit unfortunately hindered by the fact that air-conditioning wires, ducting and piping had to be recalibrated to be in a separate area, as opposed to a traditional layout seen in rectangular buildings.
In addition, the skyscraper is also famed for its utilization of reinforced concrete. Seeing that the reinforced concrete scheme would be able to save 230 million HKD from as opposed to a steel frame, the concrete structure was adopted after deliberation and the Plaza stands tall as one of the world’s tallest reinforced concrete buildings. This was made possible by the implementation of 1.1-metre deep floor edge beams as well as columns at 4.6-metre centres to replace larger, more constantly steel corner columns commonly observed in similar structures across the globe.
Despite possibly being overshadowed by neighbours ICC and IFC, both of which are taller in size and arguably more featured in popular media, the Central Plaza is a truly a unique statement of architectural excellence and cultural integration, and it is hoped that the article provides insights on the structure and intrigues them to explore further.
Image courtesy of Central Plaza