• Building on a Legacy

    24 October 2019

    This year marks the 145th anniversary of one of the longest-running architectural practices in Hong Kong. From 1874, the founders of Leigh & Orange (L&O) brought their design talent and skills to bear on the early urban development of Hong Kong shaping the city through infrastructure, public and civil works that addressed the needs of the community. L&O’s early projects include Hong Kong’s first reclamation project located at Belchers Bay in Kennedy Town in 1877, Hong Kong’s first large-scale clean water supply construction project, Tai Tam Reservoir, in 1898, and the Star Ferry Pier and the adjacent harbourside piers and warehouses serving Hong Kong’s main cross-harbour transport link.


    L&O also participated in many commercial projects, including on the west side of Statue Square in Central Queen’s Building and The Prince’s Building in 1899 and 1904 respectively, with the site of the former now occupied by the famous Mandarin Oriental Hotel, also designed by L&O. Indeed, all these works quickly became the youthful city’s iconic landmarks.
    For nearly a century and a half, L&O, as an architect and urban planner, have been committed to resolving the challenging problems encountered in the City’s urban development process. Through its architecture, L&O helped to drive the transformation of what was once known as a ‘barren rock’ into a world class city, both reflecting and shaping its culture with striking buildings for business, living, hospitality, worship, sport and leisure.

    Reshaping the Mindset

    As one of the principal architectural practices in early 20th century in Hong Kong, L&O introduced a new concept for office buildings that embraced entire city blocks with arcaded footpaths and soaring stone façades, while fronting onto broad thoroughfares served by electric trams. From 1892 the Dairy Farm Building above Central was developed to supply Hong Kong residents with fresh milk using newly developed refrigeration technology and today the building houses the Foreign Correspondents’ Club and the Fringe Club. L&O’s architects also took part in shaping the culture of the city, from horse racing at Happy Valley and Shatin, to Ocean Park and religious buildings to cater to the needs of many faiths.

    L&O’s ability in designing practical places of necessity was shown in the design of the Hong Kong Electric Company Plant on Star Street in Wanchai. Also, one of the original founders of the firm, Mr. Sharp, left in his will a generous provision to build a hospital in memory of his wife, which become the Matilda Hospital on the Peak and opened in 1904. The practice supported the development of Hong Kong’s nascent education sector with its design for University of Hong Kong’s Loke Yew Hall, the first building for Hong Kong’s first university. Building on this legacy, last year saw L&O complete work on the International Culinary Institute at Pokfulam for the Vocational Training Council, as well as the redevelopment of Chinese University’s Chung Chi Student Development Complex, designed to encourage student participation, walkability and sustainability through master planning and architectural design.

    Ms. Ivy Lee, Managing Director of L&O shared her view on the role of architects in shaping the societal and cultural evolution of urban development. “The emergence of a new spirit in architecture is one that is capable of converging new technologies with the city’s cultural and historical heritage,” she observes.

    From coastal development and reclamation through to the Belt and Road Initiative and the development of the Greater Bay Area that links the urban economic circle of Hong Kong
    with that of mainland China, L&O has been at the forefront of enhancing the urban cityscape of many cities.

    Diversity and Innovation

    In recent times, the diversity of projects embracing construction innovation includes the Hong Kong University’s Kadoorie Sciences Building, Run Run Shaw Creative Media Centre at City University and the NTT Communications HK Financial Data Centre Tower. One recent project in the city is InnoCell in Hong Kong Science Park (HKSP), which uses the innovative
    construction method ‘Modular Integrated Construction’ (MiC) to promote off-site construction aiming to improve the productivity, quality and environmental friendliness of this hostel
    project. It also addresses issue of labour shortages within the local construction industry.

    In the same vein, a proposed student residence development at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) will embrace the potential for Design for Manufacturing and
    Assembly (DfMA), where each element is fabricated offsite, thereby minimising the labour required on-site, whilst accelerating the construction program of the structure and maintaining an expressive architectural style.

    L&O has also collaborated with a multi-discipline technical services consultant team for the concept design of Kai Tak Sports Park, a site that covers 28 hectares, the main feature of which is a new 50,000-seat main stadium with a retractable roof.

    During the post-contract award stage, L&O is now a leading member of the project team driving the completion of the design and construction of the park slated for 2023.

    L&O was commissioned by the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority in 2017 as the Lead Consultant for the West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD) Zone 2, providing the consultancy services for one of the largest cultural projects in the world. The WKCD Zone 2 integrated basement and underground road will serve as the backbone infrastructure to support future Arts and Cultural Venues and other topside Hotel Office Residential (HOR) Developments.

    Striving to push the boundary of the practice’s hospitality portfolio, L&O has been extensively involved in a number of world class integrated resorts projects in Macau including Studio City, the City of Dreams (Macau) and recently opened Morpheus Hotel in partnership with Zaha Hadid Architects as the first high-rise exoskeleton project in the world.

    Sustainability and Corporate Wellness

    L&O envisions sustainability in a more encompassing manner, from nurturing the culture of sustainability within the office and in the staff, to implementing this culture in our projects and contributing to the community. L&O is one of the few architectural firms in Hong Kong having a Building Sustainability Team. The firm is proactively implementing all-round policies to reduce the carbon footprint and create a sustainable planet for future generations. The firm’s recently renovated Hong Kong office ‘Living Studio’ received a ‘Platinum’ rating under the BEAM Plus Interiors certification, to recognize its contribution to making Hong Kong a greener city.

    Understanding the importance of workplace wellbeing, L&O has initiated a series of corporate wellness initiatives such as yoga classes to encourage physical exercise, regular distribution of fruit to enhance a healthy diet, as well as a room to support nursing mothers at work. All these arrangements aim to improve the physical health and wellbeing in the workplace.

    Beyond the Pearl River Delta

    Today the award-winning practice continues to expand from its headquarters in Hong Kong, and has extended its services to the Asia Pacific and Middle East regions with offices now in Beijing, Shanghai, Fuzhou and Qatar. Last year also saw the establishment of its latest branch in Qianhai, Shenzhen, marking a centre point for what will become L&O’s contribution to the synergy of the Greater Bay area.

    “Since the opening up of China in the 1980s, L&O has actively participated in the design of numerous large-scale developments in the mainland. In parallel to the legacy of L&O transferring overseas technology and skills to Hong Kong in the late 1800s, we are applying lessons learned over the past century to bringing necessities and culture for the next generation of PRC, Myanmar, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Qatar and Saudi Arabia,” explains Ms. Lee.

    “Similar to the New Urbanism of the 1960s, we see Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) as the next revolution in sustainable urbanism,” she explains. L&O pioneered new TODs in China, designed to maximise development potential, increase land value, whilst positively changing the way people live. Indeed, this typology seeks to bring home, transport hub and workplace together to enhance spatial experiences and encourage communal living. As an urban planner and architect, L&O is seeking to shape the behaviour of people by encouraging them to create communities in the form of Community-Oriented Development (COD) projects such as Future Times, Vanke Hangxinglu Metro Station mixed-use developments, as well as several projects in the city of Chengdu.

    “In Myanmar, hospitality projects and the revitalization of the iconic Strand Hotel in Yangon are designed to celebrate different threads of the history of its culture. In addition, our proposals for the LetsRun Park international competition proposed a uniquely South Korean fusion of entertainment, by linking a theme park with thoroughbred racing. We are proud that such projects have been recognised for their excellence by our peers. In the Middle East, the iconic Al Shaqab Equestrian Complex is considered as one of the finest equestrian facilities in the world.

    Also, in Qatar the Multipurpose Administration Complex at Ras Laffan Industrial City has received recognition as ‘Best City Development’ at the Arab Investment Summit,” Ms. Lee concludes.

    Under the leadership of Ivy Lee, as the Managing Director and Sustainability Director, L&O remains committed to preserve the firm’s long-standing core values “Inspired by Humanity, Sustained by Creativity”, and to consistently implement these values into its design philosophy to sustain the firm’s unique position as one of the most widely respected and time-honoured architectural practices in Asia.





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