Each era sees the rise of new superstars. The legendary Sam Hui was the Cantopop icon of the 1970s before Leslie Cheung and Alan Tam shot to stardom in the next decade. Then the 1990s marked the beginning of the “Four Heavenly Kings” era. While singers make a name for themselves with their music, Hong Kong’s iconic office buildings enjoy a stellar reputation by joining the race for the highest heights.
From the ’70s until now, we have seen new height records replacing old ones. How many of these skyscrapers do you still remember? Here are the past and current winners in the city’s ongoing super high-rises sweepstakes.
1970s – Jardine House
If you’ve ever passed the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong and looked across Connaught Road, you’ve probably noticed a skyscraper with round windows all over its exterior wall. That is Jardine House and back in the ’70s it was the tallest building in Hong Kong and Asia. The skyscraper is 178.5 metres tall, with 52 storeys. The aluminium exterior wall gives it a modern yet timeless look.
1980s – Hopewell Centre, Bank of China Tower
Records are made to be broken. In the early ’80s, another giant structure set a new height record. Hopewell Centre stole the limelight with a 216-metre height. Perched on Queen’s Road in Wan Chai, this 66-story block claimed the title of highest building in Hong Kong and Asia. At the top is the city’s only revolving restaurant, offering 360-degree views and outstanding food.
But Hopewell Centre held its title for less than a decade. The focus returned to Central in 1989 when the 70-floor Bank of China Tower was built to reach around 367 metres on Garden Road, making it the tallest building in the city. The architecture resembles growing bamboo shoots, representing vitality and prosperity.
1990s – Central Plaza
Don’t take Central Plaza literally and mistake it for being in Central. If you’ve gone to the Convention and Exhibition Centre via MTR you will have walked into the building without knowing it. Situated on Harbour Road in Wan Chai, the 374-metre high, 78-floor skyscraper made its appearance in 1992. It was the highest building in Hong Kong and Asia at that time. Factoring in the pole at top, it reaches 378 meters.
2000s – Two International Finance Centre (Two IFC)
A new millennium comes with new aspiration. Built on reclaimed land and completed in 2003, Two International Finance Centre was then the highest office building in the city. The 90-storey skyscraper atop Hong Kong Station prides itself on its well-established infrastructure. Not only did it consolidate the city’s international financial status, it also raised the bar for the city’s office towers with a new record of 415.8 metres.
2010s – International Commerce Centre (ICC)
For the past few decades Hong Kong Island had taken all the credit for office tower heights, but in 2011 glory came to the Kowloon side. On the opposite side of Victoria Harbour facing Two IFC stands a structure that is the highest skyscraper in the city and the 11th highest building in the world. Completed in 2011, this 118-floor skyscraper racking up 484 metres offers a mix of office, hotel and shopping space, an observation deck and the upcoming West Kowloon Terminus as an added bonus. It also houses the highest bar (OZONE) on the globe.
Just as people aspire to higher positions, buildings aim for higher heights. Competition is everywhere in this day and age, but for Hong Kong it’s constructive rather than destructive. Hong Kong has one of the most spectacular skylines in the world and credit must go to the extraordinary spirit of the city and its people.