Hong Kong Architecture 1945-2015: From Colonial to Global

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Springer, Jun 13, 2016 - Architecture - 337 pages
This book focuses on the transformation from colonial to global – the formation, mechanism, events, works and people related to urban architecture. The book reveals hardships the city encountered in the 1950s and the glamour enjoyed in the 1980s. It depicts the public and private developments, and especially the public housing which has sheltered millions of residents. The author identifies the architects practising in the formative years and the representatives of a rising generation after the 1980s. Suffering from land shortage and a dense environment, the urban development of Hong Kong has in the past 70 years met the changing demands of fluctuating economic activities and a rising population. Architecture on the island has been shaped by social demands, the economy and technology. The buildings have been forged by the government, clients, planners, architects, many contractors and end-users. The built environment nurtures our life and is visual evidence of the way the city has developed. Hong Kong is a key to East Asia in the Pacific Era. The book is a must-read for a thorough understanding the contemporary history and architecture of this oriental pearl.

“Hong Kong sets an extreme example of hyper-density living. MTR’s Kowloon Station project offered my firm the unique opportunity to contribute to a new type of fully integrated three dimensional transport mega-structure, conceived as a well-connected place for people to live, work and play. Through Charlie Xue’s book, one can see how a compact city works and high density integrated development indicates a sustainable path for modern city making.”

Sir Terry Farrell, CBE, Principal, Farrells

"Well researched and refreshingly well structured, Charlie Xue's latest book comprehensively shows how Hong Kong's post-war urban architecture both tracks and symbolizes the former British colony's rise to success - a must read for architecture and culture buffs alike."

Peter G. Rowe, Raymond Garbe Professor of Architecture and Urban Design, Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor.

“An essential addition to the growing literature on Chinese architecture, the title of the book belies the full scope of Xue’s extensive history. Covering Hong Kong’s postwar transition from defeated colony to Pacific Age power house, Xue expertly traces the evolution of the city’s ambitious and innovative programs of integrated high density urban design and infrastructure, as well as changing architectural fashions. In a time when many Western governments have all but abandoned public housing programs, Xue’s book is a timely reminder of what can be achieved.”

Professor Chris Abel, author of Architecture and Identity, Architecture, technology and process and The Extended Self.“/p>


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This book explores the influences and the design language of Hong Kong architecture from 1945 to 2015. This period represents a significant time of social, economic, political and technological change in Hong Kong; abridged superbly in the sub-title to this text ‘colonial to global’. From an architectural perspective this time marks a unique ‘coming together’ of influence which has resulted in an urban form and function of Hong Kong that has much to offer 21st Century urban development worldwide.
Professor Xue’s exploration is assembled and driven around contextually specific enquiry. Four key questions are posed, and ultimately answered in this book:
1. As one of the major economic pillars, how did urban architecture help Hong Kong’s transformation and economic miracles in its last 50 years before the sovereignty handover?
2. How did the building projects represent and symbolize the various stages during this period of transformation?
3. What are the driving forces for building development in different stages?
4. What contributions has Hong Kong architecture made to China, Asia, and the world?
The work is very well sourced and supported through meticulous research. Professor Xue generously defers to a range of authors, while also collating and presenting essential policy and fact from an array government and industry reporting. The book also incorporates a collection of illustrations and photography of the urban form of Hong Kong to great effect, providing the reader with a sense of the design, scale, and engineering.
Professor Xue’s treatment of Hong Kong architecture is exquisitely thorough. It could only be assembled by a man who has many years of ‘close examination, experience and contemplation’ of the subject. Indeed what is revealed is a precise and keen appreciation for the practice, science and academy of architecture. As a result the examination is profound and leaves the reader with clear opportunities for reflection and association to their own condition.
The writing style is both accessible and enjoyable. It is authoritative and written from a deep well of personal practice and scholarship. The author’s own reflections at the conclusion of each chapter, are an individual touch which reminds the reader of the deep insights, affiliation and indeed affection Professor Xue has for both architecture and Hong Kong as his home. These important touchstones of knowledge strengthen and ground the sense of place for the reader.
This book represents a much needed quality academic, English language exploration of the development and design of Hong Kong architecture from 1945 to 2015. It is an interesting and important reference and resource for government, the public, and the scholars, practitioners and students of all disciplines of the built environment. Architects, urban planners, landscape architects, urban designers, engineers and developers will all be able to identify their place in the text and take lessons and new knowledge for their own practice and perspective.
While Hong Kong architecture has drawn on both colonial and global influences this work by Professor Xue explores the emergence of it as own design language. There is much to learn from the design and development of Hong Kong. The author is correct in the assertion that Hong Kong architecture does set an example for the rest of the world. On a planet with limited resources this delicate design in high density offers a leading example of an urban future that balances community, beauty and commerce.


Part I Government Led Modernity
1 Reconstruction and Resettlement After the War
2 Modernism Coming to TownGovernment LowCost Housing and Public Buildings
3 Design Forces and Their Strategies
4 Government Control Building Regulations and Their Implications
Part II Private Forces Command
5 Serving the Middle ClassPrivate Housing and Shopping Mall
8 Being Chinese in ArchitectureThe Growth of Local Architects
Part III Backward and Forward Vision
9 Finding the Roots and Preserving Our Wellbeing
10 Pursuing ExcellenceToward a Civic Architecture
Made in Hong Kong Design
Further Reading

6 Rail Village and MegaStructure
7 From Commercial to Global

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About the author (2016)

Dr. Charlie Q. L. Xue has held teaching appointments in architecture at Jiaotong University, Shanghai; University of Texas, USA and City University of Hong Kong. Dr. Xue has nine books published including Building Practice in China (1999, 2009), Building a Revolution: Chinese Architecture Since 1980 (2006, 2009) and World Architecture in China (2010. His research papers were published in the international refereed journals like Journal of Architecture, Journal of Architecture and Planning Research, Urban Design International, Journal of Urban Design, Habitat International, Cities. His works are widely read and cited internationally. Xue’s research focuses on architecture of the Greater China area and design strategies of high density environment.

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