M+ staff members Shirley Surya and Kevin Forkan introduce the museum's archives of Hong Kong architectural firm Wong & Ouyang and four of its projects.
From the Archives is a series that shines a spotlight on the M+ Collection Archives. With the help of Shirley Surya (Curator, Design and Architecture), and Kevin Forkan (Head, Archives and Library), you can learn more about four projects from the museum's archives of Hong Kong architectural firm Wong & Ouyang (HK) Ltd.
These projects represent the various phases of the firm’s development: the Jackson Wong residence, the Hong Kong Adventist Hospital, Hutchison House, and the Bond Centre, later called Lippo Centre.
Who is this archive from?
Shirley: Like the Wong Tung & Partners archive, this archive is from one of Hong Kong’s earliest homegrown firms in the post-war period, Wong & Ouyang. It was established in 1958 as Wong & Ng Associates, by Jackson Wong and Ng Chung Man.
Unlike Wong Tung & Partners, the Wong & Ouyang founders were trained in Hong Kong. Both Wong and Ng were part of the first batch of students who graduated in 1955 from the University of Hong Kong Department of Architecture, led by Gordon Brown, former president of the Architectural Association in London. The firm was one of the first established by Hong Kong-trained architects. Its prolific work made significant contributions to Hong Kong’s architectural and urban developments.
What’s in the archive?
Kevin: The Wong & Ouyang archive contains material documenting six projects, including the four that we’re focusing on in this post. Overall, there are about 160 items in the archive. These include drawings and floor plans, usually diazotype reproductions. These are copies made using chemically treated paper (explained further in the in the Wong Tung archive post). It’s likely that anyone who feels the need to build a replica of, for example, the Lippo Centre would have to come to us, as we hold a full set of floor plans for the building.
The archive includes photographs of all the completed projects, and some of the construction process. Most of the photographs are physical black-and-white or colour prints, but there are some digital copies as well. There are also magazines, newspaper clippings, and brochures relating to each project.
The oldest item in the archive is from around 1954. It’s an early drawing by Jackson Wong, produced as part of his architectural studies at the University of Hong Kong. As a gift from the family of Jackson Wong, we have included it as part of the Wong & Ouyang archive.
The drawing depicts a proposed courtyard home for a Chinese professor. It references both traditional Chinese and modernist architecture, and is evocative of the work of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the last director of the seminal Bauhaus school. It also shows parallels to Wong’s later designs, especially the Jackson Wong residence.
Jackson Wong residence (1964–66)
Shirley: This was Jackson Wong’s own residence. Most architects in Hong Kong have considered it to be a bold residential design, due to both the stark use of exposed fair-faced concrete and for its structural simplicity—composed of linear planes and cantilevered boxy volumes.
Wong’s stark use of béton brut (exposed concrete) for the house’s exterior (and many parts of its interior) was daring. It reflects the influence of the Brutalist aesthetic in architectural production at the time, beginning in Britain in the 1950s. While such unadorned use of fair-faced concrete may not be compatible with Hong Kong’s climate, Hong Kong architects used it extensively—it was, for example, also seen in projects such as the design of the Chinese University of Hong Kong by W. Szeto & Partners in the 1960s. The modernism and egalitarianism of Brutalist civic spaces of 1960s Britain resonated with Hong Kong architects. In this case, it was being applied to a high-end residence. Nevertheless, the house is a fantastic example of Wong’s experimentation with building materials like exposed concrete. This was later applied in the design of the Hong Kong Adventist Hospital.
Like Jackson Wong’s early student drawing of his Chinese professor’s courtyard house, Wong’s residence also demonstrates the influence of the linearity and open plan design of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
Adventist Hospital (1967–71)
Shirley: In contrast with a more personal project like the Jackson Wong residence, the Hong Kong Adventist Hospital represents one of Wong & Ouyang’s earliest designs for a public facility. It also was the firm’s first hospital design. Conformed to its hilltop site with a novel circular tower, it is considered one of the earliest buildings in Hong Kong with a circular plan.
The above floor plan shows the building’s radial, panoptic plan, which reflects a human-centred medical planning approach that was gaining currency at the time. This approach focuses on the needs of the user. For example, perimeter wards surround the central nurses’ stations, minimising the need for support spaces while allowing direct sightlines between caretakers and patients. At the time, such a floor plan was efficient for a hospital of that particular scale. The plan also shows the efficient spatial planning, which allowed for a diversity of spaces—including the chapel, clinics, ward, and nurse’s stations—all packed on the same floor.
As with the Jackson Wong residence, the hospital was designed and finished with the Brutalist aesthetic of exposed concrete. Unfortunately, this is no longer recognisable today, as it has been painted over—which is often the fate of many Brutalist buildings.
Hutchison House (1972–74)
Shirley: Hutchison House, completed in 1975 in Admiralty, was one of the first high-rise office towers built in Hong Kong during Hong Kong’s economic boom of the 1970s. It was designed to be the headquarters of Hutchison International, one of Hong Kong’s most established firms.
The whole Admiralty–Wan Chai district was being revamped at the time. The British military facility was slowly moved out and a new land use needed to be figured out. Hutchison House was one of the earliest office towers built in the ensuing business district.
In an article in Asian Architect & Builder (July, 1974), the Hutchison House was described as ‘a high powered building’: a twenty-two storey modern office building with the finest materials and facilities. Lift lobbies and staircases are located at the centre of the tower block, creating a column-free rentable office space. All flooring is of high-quality teak and the windows are framed in bronze and anodised aluminium, with anti-sun grey-tinted glass to minimise solar heat and glare.
It was one of the first mixed-use office buildings in Hong Kong, with a shopping arcade and offices forming the podium part of the building. The ornate lobby/shopping arcade features a ceiling-integrated chandelier, composed of green and yellow acrylic tubes, mounted on a bronze anodised aluminium grid with the tubes forming a geometric pattern. The shopping atrium was served by six flights of escalators, and its walls and floors were clad in Italian marble.
Today, the Hutchison House is certainly dwarfed by the buildings around it, and it will soon be torn down. But when it was completed forty-four years ago, it was influential for presenting the retail-and-office building typology in Hong Kong. As local architects, Wong & Ouyang dared to build one of the first office towers in the Admiralty area. Both the Bond Centre and Hutchison House, along with Pacific Place—another significant project from the firm—speak to their claim on this neighbourhood.
The Bond Centre (Lippo Centre) (1984–87)
Shirley: The Bond Centre was the firm’s most high-profile collaborative project, designed with American architect Paul Rudolph as design consultant. You probably know this building better as the Lippo Centre. The Bond Corporation went bankrupt shortly after the building’s completion.
The final drawings for the building were by Wong & Ouyang, with Nora Leung as the project architect. The design was largely conceived by Paul Rudolph. He was the face of the project. He was heavily featured in the promotional brochure in the archive, published right after the building’s completion to attract office tenants. There is also an old advertisement for the Bond Centre featuring Rudolph, who describes how the building fits into the context of Admiralty-Wan Chai business district, and especially how its glass curtain walls were designed to reflect neighbouring buildings.
Some of the most recognisable features of the building are the protruding wedge-like volumes—which often lead to the two towers colloquially referred to as ‘koala trees’ due to their resemblance to koalas clinging to a tree. These protrusions resulted from the use of cantilevered floor sections to break down the exterior facade of the towers, to provide an element of scale to the outside of the building. These one-storey projections were referred to as ‘sky floors’—when viewed from the outside, they are exposed on their floors, roofs, and walls.
Such a design was an example of Rudolph’s constant attempt to renew the standardised language of speculative tower designs. This is also why there are so many varied floor plans for this building. Each of the twelve basic floor plans are rotated forty-five degrees to the floor below. The protrusions can be seen from above to be turning, like the sails of a windmill.
The tower’s design, set away from the street and characterised by an interplay with a four-storey podium raised on huge columns, also reflects the importance Rudolph placed on the building’s interface with the main public thoroughfare of Queensway. Pedestrians on the pavement are drawn into the podium by a generous sweep of stairs that funnel upward between the towers into a triple-storey lobby. The podium also accommodates a second skywalk level that allows pedestrians to walk comfortably above the traffic and be shielded from the weather. A bridge at each of the four corners of the podium connects with the skyway level of adjacent buildings.
As told to Ellen Oredsson. The above interview has been edited for clarity. This article was originally published on M+ Stories.