Kwun Tong has the reputation of being an industrial and light manufacturing area. Although it was designated as a new town along the lines of Sha Tin or Tsuen Wan, it always had a no-nonsense, working class edge. After the relocation of the airport to Lantau and height restrictions for east Kowloon were lifted, Kwun Tong has enjoyed a slow but steady gentrification that is yielding galleries like Osage in former warehouse spaces. With the unveiling of Arquitectonica’s design for the twin tower Landmark East, the ante was upped for grade A commercial buildings with strong designed statements — propelling Kwun Tong into a cool new era.
Developed and managed by Wing Tai Properties, Landmark East is a dual office tower development that follows the urban regeneration of the area initiated by complexes such as APM. As the site is long and narrow, the towers were designed accordingly and rise above its neighbours in a dynamic way. Appearing to sway like bamboo in a breeze, the glass-clad 40 and 43-storey structures stand apart from the predominantly clunky concrete structures in the district.
“The target tenants were financial institutions and their administrative and support facilities, service firms and commercial businesses,” says Peter Brannan, managing director, Asia & Middle East, who was the project director on Landmark East. He worked with lead designer and principal-in-charge Bernardo Fort-Brescia, a founding partner at Arquitectonica. “The two anchor tenants, AXA and AIA, show that the target tenants were achieved. This attracts higher income individuals to the neighbourhood and the associated benefits they bring in spending and boosting local businesses in the area.” Along with the two insurance giants, Landmark East has proven to be popular with a wide variety of firms including WSP, Siemens and Adidas.
Arquitectonica used high strength reinforced concrete for the structure to keep core walls and columns as thin and lithe as possible throughout the high-rise towers. Post tensioned band beams allowed for lofty 2.9-metre ceiling heights in the office floors, while the facade is an aluminium frame curtain wall system with double low E coated insulated glass. This provides the maximum amount of sunlight to naturally light spaces while reducing heat transmission — and air-conditioning costs — into the building. Additionally, a brisole system and horizontal fins on the south facade help to articulate the building form and provide further solar shading.
Maximum Interiors Inside, both towers boast efficient rectangular floor plates with columns mostly near the perimeter and side cores oriented towards the north. This allows for the maximum amount of prime office space to face south towards the views of Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong Island. By slightly tilting the towers’ sectional form in opposing directions, Arquitectonica gave the towers a feeling of movement and lightness as they reach upwards. As the tilting forms interlock slightly differently on every floor, additional corner offices were created on some levels.
Arquitectonica kept services such as parking and loading areas to the basement levels and a podium structure at the base of tower two. This opens up the rest of the site for a public plaza landscaped with sculpture gardens and cafes that are added value incentives for both tenants and residents in the area. “Landmark East was designed to improve the context of the neighbourhood by expanding the sense of public open space through connecting the new plazas to the adjacent public park,” says Brannan. “This creates new walking routes through the city, improves breezeways and allows more natural light to flow down to the ground. The plaza provides space for the buildings to breathe around them. Light and cool breezes are drawn into and around the base of the building by freeing up the open space. By avoiding building out to the pavement and road lines, the plaza softens the impact of the towers on the urban pattern and responds to the human scale within the city.”
Alvin Leung’s MC Kitchen is one of the latest tenants to see the advantages that Landmark East offers. The two Michelin-starred chef and founder of Bo Innovation opened a less extreme, more homey, 45-seat edition of his restaurant in the lobby of AIA Tower earlier this year. “It is the kind of place that I can see people coming to every week,” says Leung. “For people who live in Sai Kung or Clearwater Bay and want fine dining, it’s easy for them to drive down here and get a parking space. We also have a lot of customers who work in the buildings or the neighbourhood and come here for lunch or after work.”
Landmark East has already won a number of awards, including a provisional platinum BEAM award for its sustainable components such as harvested rainwater for its landscape irrigation system. Other awards include a merit award for architecture from the Hong Kong Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and a Society of American Registered Architects Design award.