March 2000


Oxford House, Quarry Bay

Campus connection

It is city planning in miniature, but after years of patient acquisition and thoughtful development, Swire Properties has succeeded in creating a little model to which urban planners may refer. The subject in question is TaiKoo Place and Taikoo Shing; that area in Quarry Bay which was once a faceless industrial outpost of developing Hong Kong

In the mid-1970s, in tandem with the construction of the Mass Transit Railway Island Line, Swire began the transformation of Quarry Bay with the development of Taikoo Shing, a massive residential complex with 13,000 flats in 61 towers. In the mid-1980s, in a seemingly separate development not far away, Swire gradually began to transform its industrial estate into an office complex that boasts Grade A accommodation, convenient transport via the MTR and Island Eastern Corridor, and off-centre rental.
        TaiKoo Place, as it came to be called, was to be turned into what architect Wong & Ouyang called a "commercial campus" with its associated sense of community and coherence, achieved through a common architectural language and an orchestrated experience through a flowing, continuous podium spanning all the buildings in the development.
        Grand as this plan is, the developer's plans are in fact grander, although this did not become apparent until recently, when Oxford House was completed.
        Originally an industrial building owned by a printing firm, Oxford House is located at the eastern tip of TaiKoo Place, where it serves as the vital link that connects the office complex with the residential community of Taikoo Shing.
        From a landscaped garden christened Via Fiori that marks the boundary between the two developments, pedestrians can now step into the airy lobby of Oxford House, ride the escalator to the first floor, and begin their journey through the commercial campus.
        Key to the sense of a continuous first floor pathway is the creation of bridge links that blend seamlessly with the podiums which they are built to connect. To that end, Oxford House comes with a bridge of a height and volume designed to make it an integral part of the podium. Its treatment also echoes that of the building from which it springs. 
        To bring as much natural light into the public areas as possible and to enhance the sense of airy spaciousness, the podium of Oxford House is clad in full-height glazing secured by a spider fixing system. Glass panels are held in place by unobtrusive, spider-like members which are in turn secured by a system of masts and cables set back from the facade, thus making it possible to enclose a space with continous spans of glass without mullions. This cladding system is extended to the bridge which, according to the architect, is 80 per cent transparent as a result. 
        Although part of the same development, the Oxford House bridge is treated entirely differently from the Lincoln House bridge due to programming and structural reasons. 
        Designed as a spaceframe, the shorter (20 m) Lincoln House bridge was supported at both ends when built; by contrast, the Oxford House bridge was built with support at the Oxford House end only. The bridge was consequently designed as a tension truss system with its 30 m span held up by diagonal members. A system of temporary support was erected to support the bridge in the middle during construction and was taken down when the whole structure was hung on temporary anchors on Somerset House. This arrangement makes it possible to provide a permanent bridge link to Oxford House now, regardless of the overall development schedule for the whole estate.
        The transition from bridge to podium is marked by a skylight designed to bring more natural light into the lift lobby as well as to accentuate the end of the bridge. Office workers will be circulated into the building via the bridge and two sets of escalators serving the Taikoo Shing entrance into the building and the vehicular entrance respectively.
        Paved in the trademark red bricks of TaiKoo Place, the vehicular entrance features a unique glass canopy which is the happy result of the search for a transparent solution. According to the architect, the original design for the entrance did not feature a canopy, as the intention was for the ground floor lobby, enclosed by a glass wall, to achieve maximum transparency. However, the need for a sheltered taxi dropoff was recognised at a later stage of the project, and the architect was instructed to design a canopy after all.
        Given the desire to maintain maximum transparency, glass was chosen early as the cover material for the canopy roof. However, since the glass wall of the lobby was not designed to support a canopy, how could this structure be supported? In the search for a structurally expressive yet simple form of support, the architect finally designed two tree-like stainless steel columns. The material was chosen because it would complement the anodised aluminium highlights of the building and the stainless steel of the spider fixing system. The columns also double as drainage channels in a design which marries function and aesthetics -- by angling the canopy to slope backwards towards the glass wall, an unobtrusive gutter can be provided to collect rainwater for drainage through pipes within the columns while leaving a clear glass span in front.
        The canopy design, once approved, was extended to the 25 m long, 10 m wide walkway between Oxford House and Taikoo Shing, where panels of glass, also secured by a spider fixing system, are supported by five pairs of "trees", creating a vaulting effect. This solution not only maintains unity of design throughout the project, but also satisfies the client's wish to maintain the harbour vista enjoyed by the walkway, for which reason it was raised to a height of 6 m.
        In response to the client's wish to have a simple, easy-to-maintain building, Oxford House was designed as a sleek rectangular building with interlocking forms to add interest to its external articulation. It is clad in a silver reflective double glazed curtain wall with anodised aluminium bands as highlights. It has 41 floors and five basement levels providing a total gross floor area of 502,000 sq ft and 183 parking spaces.
        In order to take advantage of the harbour vista to the north while avoiding a 30-storey building which stands in the way, the architect pushed the building towards the eastern boundary of the site. This allows all floors to have a view of the harbour in the northeast corner, while all floors above the 30th enjoy a sweeping seaview. 
        A single-sided lift core was placed in the southeast corner, resulting in a very efficient, L-shaped floor plate with a 12,900 sq ft floor plan. This layout also helps to relate the building to the rest of the TaiKoo Place development to its west. The building is served by 12 high-speed passenger lifts divided into three zones.
        To maintain the airy beauty of the podium, a large, rigidly tensioned truss was installed in the podium roof, so that the space can remain uncluttered by any horizontal member. The podium's elegant atmosphere is enhanced by white marble and granite floors and subtle lighting complemented by artworks. A 13 m tall painting by Japanese artist Makato Fujimura will adorn the northern wall of the core while two murals by Estonian artist Zoya Frolova will be installed on the western wall. Other bronze sculptures for the lobby areas are currently being explored.
        According to the architect, the building is intended to be seen mainly from the west, where it faces the rest of TaiKoo Place; and the east, where it faces Taikoo Shing. Thus, instead of having a big blank wall reflecting the fact that the core occupies most of the building's eastern side, the architect extended the glazing to cover the eastern facade, using the exposed, functional louvres of the plant rooms to add interest.
        Swire has given much thought to the comfort and convenience of its tenants. Creating a fully-conditioned, continuous podium encompassing the link bridges and installing public art are only part of the strategy to enhance the quality of the development. The company has also taken pains to acquire ground floor properties in the area. These are transformed into shops and eateries which serve as support structures for the offices and add life to the district as a whole.
        This mini-city between Quarry Bay and Tai Koo MTR stations is still undergoing transformation. Even so, there is no disputing the success of Swire in creating a clean, vibrant locale in which TaiKoo Place and the office/retail complex Cityplaza will provide employment and entertainment for a self-contained, sizeable community which can work, shop and play, all within walking distance of home.

architect/interior designer Wong & Ouyang (HK) Ltd
developer Swire Properties

main contractor Gammon Construction Ltd

-- Building Journal