October 2000

Court, Ho Man Tin

A crown over Kowloon

Adversity makes man wise and, judging by the design of Ellery Court, certainly makes architects creative.

Located on a hillside in Ho Man Tin, Ellery Court is the second phase of a luxury residential project developed by China Overseas Building & Development. The project is unusual in that it is closely surrounded by existing, albeit low-rise, developments and has only one narrow street frontage. LPT Architects director Agnes Ng explained that, due to this constraint, the building was placed in the middle of the 2,627 sq m site, rather than set to one side, to obtain enough light to meet Buildings Department guidelines.
        The project is situated in front of Dragon View, the first-phase residential tower which was completed in 1998. One consideration being the need to avoid blocking this building's
view as far as possible, the architect came up with a 33-storey-high tower sitting on a transfer plate supported on 16 soaring columns. This design has two advantages: it opens up the view for its sister and pushes up the building's height to capture the seaview to the south.
        A sculptural approach was adopted for the vast open space thus created beneath the tower. Some of the columns, exposed, stand directly in an irregularly shaped swimming pool which is half covered and half exposed. A jacuzzi occupying the rest of the space is covered by the tower eight metres above high tinted glass panels. Making up for the lack of street frontage, this space, which stands two to three floors above street level, provides the project with visibility and drama, especially at night when the lit swimming pool throws shimmering light onto the structure.
        The 983 sq m clubhouse is spread over two levels below the double-volume space and contains a gym, children's
play area, golf simulator and table tennis room. Below the clubhouse is a 47-space car park accessed via the main entrance on Level 3, where the only street frontage is located. A separate pedestrian entrance is provided 10 m below the vehicular entrance, where the client has given the development right of way over land he also owns.
        The main lobby is a double-volume, circular space covered in the warm tones of light yellow and brown and decorated by a view of the water feature outside. According to Ms Ng, the architect wanted to dress up the public space to project a sense of warmth and elegance without making it look like a hotel. This is achieved by the use of soft, mainly uplighting, warm colours and decorative elements reminiscent of the Art Deco movement.
        One example of such elements is a fibreglass relief which resembles a stylised peacock. According to Ms Ng, local artists were commissioned to develop the basic design for the relief, which was produced in Shenzhen and then sent back to Hong Kong for touching-up. This relief becomes a motif of the project; it recurs on every floor, and doubles as a directional sign incorporating the floor number in its design.
        Another Art Deco-inspired decoration is a painting in the clubhouse which resembles the machine age paintings of that period.
        The building has 186 units arranged on a cruciform plan designed to accommodate six flats per floor. In order to maximise the view, the structural wall is shifted to the side to make way for curved windows in the master bedroom. At the same time, to make the most of the seaview, the floor plans above the refuge floor are shifted to ensure that the curved windows in flats commanding the view look out on Tsim Sha Tsui. The use of laminated glass reduces the need for mullions and double-glazing is provided to insulate the apartments from noise generated by the busy Princess Margaret Road.
        Echoing the design of the public space inside the building as well as the facade treatment of the first-phase development, the building has an exterior of a slightly darker yellow, which is similar to but not the same as the colour scheme of the other building. This yellow, however, is not solid -- to give the exterior a softer, more subtle touch, the architect has composed it with three colours, with the yellow interspersed with bands of white and brown to generate a visual change of colour grade.
        The flats in this building enjoy generous headrooms -- 3.1 m for the lower floors and 3.5 m for the upper floors. In addition to a sense of space and comfort, the tall headrooms are also a means of pushing up the building's
height, to better capture the view.
        Ellery Court contains four duplexes and two triplexes at the top. The duplexes were designed with the entrance at the upper level. Direct access to the terrace and the roof is provided for the private quarters at the lower level. The configuration of the triplexes is just the opposite: the flat roof is attached to the first floor, where the lounge and games room are located. A spacious master bedroom complete with private jacuzzi and attached terrace occupy the middle floor and more bedrooms are placed in the top floor.
        The terraces are marked by fins on columns which, according to Ms Ng, are designed to enhance the sculptural quality of the building as well as to make the open space more inviting and less frightening, given the height.
        Above the triplexes and duplexes, the roof of the building is crowned by a round tower surrounded by an arcade of double columns. Ms Ng said this feature was designed to make an architectural statement and to increase the prominence of the building. It also serves a functional purpose: it both houses and masks a satellite dish.

28th to 43rd floor plan

Unlike the typical angular cruciform block, this building is full of curves and irregular shapes designed to increase its sculptural quality. This is also enhanced by the design of an external lighting scheme, for which the architect engaged the expertise of a specialist consultant.
        Although height restriction in the area has been relaxed following the relocation of the airport, Ellery Court is expected to remain the tallest building in Ho Man Tin for some years due to its favourable position on a hill. With the curved windows lit like strips of neon set against the flicker of deeper windows as well as the uplights and floodlights of the exterior, this building is set to glow like a beacon on the Kowloon peninsula, a distinctive presence in the night sky.

architect LPT Architects Ltd
project manager China Overseas Property Ltd
structural engineer CM Wong & Associates Ltd
m&e engineer Felix Tsang & Partners
quantity surveyor Frank & Vargeson (HK) Ltd
main contractor China Overseas Building Construction Ltd

-- Building Journal