Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat
iSQUARE, Hong Kong
Posted August 2011

Other Featured Tall Buildings

“The design excels at making a vibrant vertical city of retail shops by the strategic and careful planning of functional space and vertical circulation.”
– Bruce Kuwabara, CTBUH 2010 Awards Juror, KPMB Architects

Hong Kong
139 m (456 ft)

53,047 sq m (570,993 sq ft)

Primary Use

Associated International Hotels
Design Architect
Rocco Design

Structural Engineer
Gammon Construction Limited

Figure 1. Overall view from south east

That we have now reached a 28-story tall retail mall says much about our consumer society; iSQUARE achieves this height with grace and transparency, rare in most retail buildings. The sky atria animate the building and draw visitors to the retail and restaurants which extend right to the top of the building. The setback of the podium and the creation of a new civic plaza is a welcome gesture in such a compact city.

Historical Context

Hong Kong's urban history is one of continuous displacement. While some may lament the eradication of memories in the process, the very act of displacing is in essence a catalyst for urban regeneration and metamorphosis. In the negative sense, displacement causes disruption and trauma; in the positive, it brings about opportunities and hope. Hong Kong derives its energy from continual displacement of its social urban context. Whether the ensured metamorphosis is for the better depends ultimately on each individual act of displacement. Herein lies the social mission for the architect.

Figure 2. Building lobby and main sky atrium

Urban Context

The design of the project evolves from a new way of looking at urban memories in a contextual juncture where specific elements are selected and heightened for architectural expression. In the process, some functions are allowed to fade to a natural death; while others thrive to a new existence more attune to contemporary urban life.

Completed in 2009, this project displaces the original hotel function, the former Hyatt Regency Hotel, which had witnessed the passage of time for almost forty years, but expands its retail element, which now takes the center stage. iSQUARE offers new retail and entertainment opportunities to the modern urban dweller.
Figure 3. Building exterior street view

The design concept of iSQUARE emphasizes fluidity and transparency of the spatial arrangement. The podium of the new building is set back eight meters on average along the entire length of Peking Road on the south, thus creating a new civic plaza of more than three hundred square meters in the main entrance precinct. The building reinvigorates its context creating a new gathering place in the midst of the crowded Nathan Road streetscape and invites pedestrian patrons to permeate the building.
iSQUARE provides approximately 53,000 square meters of gross floor area with two major programatic components—retail shops and restaurants. The new retail experience extends up the full height of the building via a series of sky-atria that orchestrate spatial tensions in stratifications within the dynamic space. The vibrant spatial energy, in perfect accord with the bustling and somewhat chaotically beautiful contextual character of Tsim Sha Tsui, is likewise manifested on the external formal treatment of the tower against the congested skyline.

Oddly shaped as it may seem, this new commercial tour de force is generated entirely in response to contextual view angles, circulation arrangements, and functional needs of the new design brief. Through the public's interaction in the architecture the building permeates the public domain to the highest floors. The landmark site now assumes an enhanced civic significance, where fragments of the past will be celebrated in multi-dimensions.
Figure 4. Program diagram model

On the exterior, the two forces of fluidity and transparency are manifested through an interplay of a series of large volume glass boxes and escalator systems. The ground floor and first floor of the building are occupied by double-height branded flagship shops with direct street access. A set of express escalators deliver visitors directly onto the second floor lobby of the building. From this point it journeys to different destinations: a double volume Event Floor, Restaurant Floor, Cinema Boxes, and ultimately a 400-seat IMAX cinema, the largest in Hong Kong, floating at the top of the podium. All these express escalators are strategically placed along the Nathan Road façade as bridge connections to the various sky atria echoing the movement and dynamism in the bustling streets below.

At the top of the building, iSQUARE takes advantage of the breathtaking panoramic view of Victoria Harbor towards Hong Kong Island. Full story high vision glass panels at the three major façades enhance the connection to the exterior context. Further, south facing balconies are added to encourage outdoor dining for the enjoyment of daylight and stunning views of the city.

The podium portion of the building reaches the height of its immediate context helping to sustain continuity of the lower building line with a greater sense of urban block delineation. Apart from the sky atria, a large portion of the podium façade is clad with a uniquely designed opaque curtain wall system integrated with warm white LED lights. This innovative lighting scheme gives a distinctive glowing lantern effect that fuses with the existing neon-covered streetscape of Nathan Road at night, yet retains a unique visual character.

Figure 5. Façade detail
LED lights are strategically chosen, instead of typical metal halide lighting, for sustainability considerations. The curtain wall system incorporates a composite thermal insulation system creating a clean, seamless appearance and reduces overall cooling load. In order to achieve a higher level of energy efficiency, water-cooled chillers have also been adopted for the centralized air-conditioning system of the building because of the higher coefficient of performance (COP) as compared to air-cooled chillers.
Figure 6. Main sky-atrium escalators

Related Links
CTBUH Skyscraper Center Profile:
Visit iSQUARE profile

iSQUARE was recognized as a Best Tall Building Finalist in the 2010 CTBUH Awards Program.
Download the iSQUARE 2010 CTBUH Awards Book section

2010 CTBUH Awards Book

The CTBUH would like to thank Rocco Design Architects for their assistance with this article. Photos and Drawings © Rocco Design Architects