Norman Foster Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, Hong Kong, China, .1 Axonometric and elevation, .2 Elevation and exterior perspective, 1985

  • Not on view

This sketch for one of Sir Norman Foster's best-known buildings is only one of the 120,000 or so drawings that were produced for the project, yet it's subjective assertiveness makes it a clear declaration of the architect's technical and visual intentions. Provisional as it appears, it plainly demonstrates the character and stance of the future headquarters of the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank. Made of eight vertical mast assemblies and five great trusses that provide lateral stiffness and support the floors, the complex structure, engineered by the premier firm of Ove Arup & Partners, reveals itself on its surface to dramatic expressive effect. The lateral view shows the towers that contain the elevators, utilities, and stairs, as well as the trusses working as wind braces.

Foster won a competition to replace the bank's old headquarters, built in 1936. The site faces north, toward mainland China, and also overlooks Statue Square and the harbor. Foster's building is magnificent and majestic, but it was initially criticized by Hong Kong residents because of its indifference to the rules of feng shui, the Chinese system of harmonizing oneself physically with the natural universe. (Among other defects, the building arrested the paths of dragons coming down from the mountain to drink from the bay.) As a matter of fact, Foster's buildings often reveal a deeper interest in themselves than in the rest of the world; their exploration of their own internal possibilities, and of the possibilities of technology, is often a stronger motive in the design than any concern for the building's site or for the local culture. It is through this single-mindedness, on the other hand, that Foster's work has advanced architecture. His contributions to the built world—whether in London, Tokyo, or Hong Kong—have sometimes made earthly cities more interesting than science fiction.

Originally from TextEntryID 73734 (TextTypeID 133)

add link to "the lateral view", (356.1996.2)

Publication excerpt from an essay by Paola Antonelli, in Matilda McQuaid, ed., Envisioning Architecture: Drawings from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2002, p. 224.
Ink and color ink on tracing paper
.1: 16 1/2 x 11 5/8" (41.9 x 29.5 cm) .2: 16 1/2 x 11 5/8" (41.9 x 29.5 cm)
Gift of the architect in honor of Philip Johnson
Object number
© 2024 Norman Foster
Architecture and Design

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