✱ Hong Kong Design Ideas Competition

Since this is a site for architectural designers, I thought I'd post an article about a recent competition entry I was a part of. I'm also taking this opportunity to show off a project I'm really proud of and get some images into a gallery for the site. I'd love to hear what you think in the comments!


Birdseye of BCF

Let’s start out with the mouth-full name of the competition:

Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge • Hong Kong Boundary Crossing Facilities International Design Ideas Competition

February 22, 2010  // HMC Architects, Los Angeles

Designers: Michael Leung // Michael Tome // Evan Troxel

Schedule: 2 weeks


As part of the Ideas Competition, HMC designers created an iconic gateway for a 20 mile long bridge that links three regions in the Pearl River Delta: Hong Kong, Zhuhai and Macao. 

Design Concept

As a gateway to Hong Kong, our Border Crossing Facility aims to bring a sense of calm to what might otherwise be a hectic experience of travel transition. We have proposed a design that is formed in direct response to the traffic and circulation flow patterns of the users of the facility and have focused on enhancing the user experience of the space. What could be at once a hectic, rushed experience of customs, queues and kiosks, is instead a relaxed, tranquil space that maximizes functional efficiency while also inviting visitors to explore the natural vegetative beauty that makes up Southern China. 

The architectural concept is derived from the notion that this gateway is about spatial progression. A unique experience, within ones many travel steps. The facility defines the experience by linking the offset buildings of arrival and departure with a central canyon element. The form of the building emerges from the site in a manner that represents flow. Flow of people, traffic, water and transition.


Birdseye of BCF at night

Inspired by water, powerful and moving, yet calming and rejuvenating - it is a life force, and a life necessity. Whether it’s through the organic curves of the building skin, or the natural stream that both divides and connects the facility, new landscapes define the movement and circulation within to set the stage for a relaxed and thought-provoking experience. The reflective quality of the water accomplishes many things for the architecture. It appears to make the canyon twice as deep as it physically is by reflecting the upper floors of the building down into it’s depths. With this inherent reflective quality comes the ability to bounce and scatter light around the underbelly of the upper terraces. Dancing, caustic light patterns help illuminate darker edges of the space and remind the visitors of the water’s powerful forces that could have carved the canyon’s stratified edges over time. Along with the water element, the people passing through the structure become the life force to reinforce the built forms with vibrancy within the serene environment. The travelers activate the space.

Voids in the floor that hold the main body of water allow light to pass through to the subterranean public transit center.  The same caustic patterns are projected onto the ground surface giving a submerged feeling to the occupants below. Since the facility is located on an island, it is as if the surrounding body of water has encroached into the underground environment. 

The site is defined by traffic patterns for bridges, roads, subways and airlines. Access occurs at different points of the site. Arriving and departing visitors enter the site at opposite ends, and move through it in opposing directions. The buildings are formed to reach out to each access point. Landscape guides visitors within the site, while also creating gathering spaces. A waterfall experience is focused at the north edge of the building. It falls from the main body of water that separates the two halves of the facility into a pool at the transit center level visually continuing the enormous glass wall above to the subterranean level. A red wall at the south entry pulls together the cherry blossom trees and the red window elements puncturing through the roof form. 


Site Plan of the BCF island

The vehicular and public transit are separated on two layers. Public transit is located underground, while vehicular is on grade. By directing bus parking below grade, the visitor experiences the building entry from the ground up. The sequential progression of experiences is highlighted by the escalator ascension through a waterfall and the overhead water table and into the multi-story atrium. Elements of reflecting water, floating planters, undulating shapes, foliage, and light work together to form fluidity in the main hall.

Pedestrian traffic patterns gently ramp up and down from the main level and divide the travelers into two groups to alleviate the sheer number of people passing through a single set of gates. Not only does this make the experience easier to handle for the travelers, it allows each person more personal space. Offices for staff are located on the upper levels and each side of the building is connected via bridging elements that smoothly transition from one side to the other in an organic way. Above the offices are landscape parks that evoke an outdoor feeling under the glass roof for employees to take breaks and eat. Some perforations in the roof are left as voids for the landscape to grow up and through the skin of the building into their naturally humid environment.


Interior, arrival side

The metaphorical idea of a canyon-like space that fluctuates in width provides constant visual and aural connections between the different flows of traffic. The circulation of visitors throughout the building is the flow that seemingly carves the form of the building. Balance is achieved with the two opposing forms in a yin-yang arrangement. Visitors arriving at the facility from the north pass the people departing from the south - they see each other’s movement and flow through the building across the water. Originally, the example scheme that came with the competition documents separated arrivals and departures in a horizontal fashion, never allowing the two distinct groups to visually connect. Our scheme took a different approach by separating them vertically with a seemingly invisible boundary - the water. With this connection, the two groups are allowed to see and hear their counterparts as they progress through the space.


Exploded model of BCF

An indoor active salt water pool utilizes cold water in this central feature for convection and radiant cooling. A Gas Desiccant cooling and dehumidification process will keep humidity levels low. While electricity can be generated through the use of “safe” Tidal Energy Collectors engineered to protect marine life. Electricity may also be provided by a new innovation in Fuel Cell technology; the Bloom Box can easily power all of this facility needs on site and within a very small space. This system can even keep the BCF off the grid. 

Iconic in form and sustainability, the boundary crossing facility becomes a landmark for travelers no matter which way they may be going. It is a transitional space that smoothly negotiates multiple paths of travel between three provinces using a variety of travel methods while creating a peaceful, inspiring environment that relaxes a busy traveler.

Click here for the Image Gallery for the project, which includes concept sketches and more imagery from the project.

All images ©2010 HMC Architects