Public buildings in Hong Kong : A short account of evolution since the 1960s

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-69
Journal / PublicationHabitat International
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013


In a capitalist society, public buildings are essential social assets that balance private and civic interests while providing convenience and comfort for the entire community. The performance of public buildings is remarkable as they are related to most people instead of a handful of users/owners in the private sector. Hence, architecture of public institutions occupies a central, subtle, and decisive role in the quality and the state of civility in the city. Living in compact environments, Hong Kong people always need and aspire for more acute use of public spaces. In this local context, common space and public buildings naturally form an extension to city living. As a consequence, public buildings are becoming multi-use, multi-value and multi-level. This article is a short account of the evolution and development of the public building in Hong Kong, from the early1960s to the new millennium. It considers the historic background of the modernist movement and the socio-economic setting of the city. In chronological order, the paper delineates six examples: the City Hall (1962), Town Hall in Shatin New Town (1985), Cultural Centre (1989), Heritage Museum (2000), Central Library (2001) and Wetland Park (2006). The authors present the statistical analysis of public buildings during this period and examine the cases with established criteria of public civic buildings. Furthermore, social background and the strategies that those designs adopted are discovered and discussed. While generally following the modernist principles, the government architects in Hong Kong adopted alternative methods to respond to the increasing societal expectations along the timeline, for example, pragmatism, neo-classicism and sustainability. It concludes by suggesting the future of the city's public buildings in the West Kowloon Cultural District in the coming decade. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.

Research Area(s)

  • After WWII, Architectural design, Colonial, Cultural identity, Hong kong, Public building