Thursday, December 22, 2011

The unbearable lightness of being...a skyscraper

Hong Kong at twilight

On this particular December day the visibility in Hong Kong was low: mist and pollution obscured the far hills on Kowloon side, but the wall of tall buildings that is Central could be seen relatively clearly. Locals described the visibility as “average” for a city that is struggling with a pollution problem. Still, the view from the Peak (real name ”Victoria Peak” , the highest point on Hong Kong Island) was impressive: worth the struggle up numerous escalators through shops and restaurants - “buy! buy! eat! eat!” - that now constitute the Peak Tower. And of course there’s that fun funicular ride on the Peak Tram to get there. That hasn’t changed.

From The Peak

International Commerce Centre

By evening, while waiting for the Star Ferry - another fun ride - to cross from Central on the Island to Tsimshatsui on Kowloon side, the low light of dusk was casting an eerie glow on the buildings. The remaining light filtered through the mist and pollution and turned the skyscrapers into beautiful ethereal shapes, hovering on the shore. Their enormous height was disguised by a sensation of lightness and airiness.

Lined up along the water in front of the Arts Centre were dozens of photographers, tripods at the ready. “Does it always look this beautiful in the evening?” I wondered. But as darkness came down I realised that they were not there to capture that gorgeous ethereal twilit moment, but the garish Christmas season lights that decorate the high-rise buildings on the Island at this time of the year. Flashing Santas, Christmas red and green, “Season’s Greetings” bawled in all its kitch splendour. 


Stil,l there’s something about Hong Kong Harbour, whatever it’s wearing.

You want statistics? The tallest building in Hong Kong (and this could change momentarily) is the International Commerce Centre on Kowloon side, 484 metres high, and the fifth tallest building in the world. There’s a Ritz Carlton Hotel on the 102nd floor.

Kowloon from the Star Ferry, evening.

Mirroring it in Central is Two International Finance Centre (2IFC) at 416.8 metres. This was the tallest in Hong Kong when it was built in 2003, but the ICC surpassed it in 2009.

Hong kong island, evening.

Then there is the rather beautiful Bank of China Tower designed by R M Pei, standing 307 metres high, with two masts taking it to 360.9 metres.

Bank of China Tower

The HSBC Tower is a Norman Foster building, and although not as high is reputed to be the most expensive building in the world, costing HK$5.2 billion.

Check out the others here.


Softened in the mist.

Evening falls: Hong Kong

Christmas lights: Hong Kong Harbour.

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