Peak Tower


Terry Farrell & Partners' Peak
Tower is a classic, but its
construction was a
Herculean task

Capping the Zenith

The Peak Tower is visible from large areas of Hong Kong Island and the Kowloon Peninsula, and has been featured in millions of photographs and postcards across the world. In many respects, its image has come to represent Hong Kong as a whole.

The tower also houses retail and entertainment facilities, a post office, and the terminus of the historic Peak Tram. In 1991, the client - The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels Ltd (HSH) - hired Terry Farrell & Partners to build the replacement for the 1972 original.


The Bowl: A con-spicuous symbol which complements the natural topograghy

Unique Form

In keeping with its prominence, the Peak Tower opts for a simple identity. Like the Eiffel Tower or the Sydney Opera house, its form is distinctive, even when reduced to a simple sketch or silhouette.The bowl device arrived at through a thorough investigation of the site's geographical, historical and cultural context.

The architects sought a design which would be prominent on the skyline but would not interrupt the natural line of the hills. The site is in a dip along the line of the hills, and the tower's height was restricted to 428 m above sea level. A floating form, rising from a solid base, was thus established as the best way to reinforce the site contours and achieve the necessary prominence.

The bowl shape was selected for its wealth of associations. It is reminiscent of the upturned eaves of traditional Chinese architecture, or a rice bowl or even a wok. Its curved outline also creates a formal contrast to the rectilinear blocks of the city below.

Past, Present and Future

There are three distinct elements in the design. The solid podium refers to the Past, the solid foundation of both the territory and the structure. It is a stable and massive form with sloping sides, and appears to be part of the rock on which it stands. Its concrete and tile surfaces are broken by a grid of blank square openings filled in with primary colours.

The Present is represented by the 13-metre open space between the podium and the bowl. The roof of the podium is an expansive observation deck, where visitors can experience the panorama views. One can even spot another of Farrell's creations, the ventilation building for Kowloon Station.

The bowl structure represents the Future, rising above the skyline on four centrally positioned core pillars. It is rendered in clean, contemporary lines and is clad in modern, technologically advanced materials: anodised aluminium panel and large expanses of glass.

Construction Problems

The elevated, exposed location experiences the most extreme weather conditions to be found in Hong Kong. The extremely high wind loads meant that structural firmness was paramount, particularly for the bowl's glass and aluminium cladding. The structure was modelled with the assistance of a wind tunnel in Canada.

Another problem was the fog which sometimes envelops the Peak completely. Construction was frequently suspended because of poor visibility. At times the fog was so thick that the tops of the cranes were no longer visible, or even the other end of the site. High humidity was also a problem. Visibility being a critical factor, the architects had to eliminate all possibility of the windows misting up on the outside due to warm humid air meeting the cool surface of the air conditioned building. In the end, a double glazed system was employed. Constructing the building would have been difficult enough on a normal site, but the weather conditions combined with the boldness of the structure itself complicated the building process.

First, the original structure had to be carefully demolished since the original retaining walls were partly held in place by the weight of the structure. An extensive, contiguous wall of more than 40 caissons, anchored to the rock behind with steel anchors, had to be inserted during the demolition process.

Being situated on the narrow Old Peak Road, in the midst of a relatively isolated residential district, site accessibility was very limited, as was space for the storage of construction materials.

The heavily cantilevered bowl superstructure was problematic to erect. The four core pillars were required to support more than 6,000 tonnes of material, and the bowl's reinforced concrete frame had to be cast in its elevated position, so a dense mass of falsework was required to support the bowl until the post tensioning beams were installed across its roof.

 

Sketches of the Bowl's Development


Section

Once again, Farrell & Partners has created a building which is instantly recognisable and unlike any other.

architect
Terry Farrell & Partners

main contractor
Chun Wo Construction & Engineering