In particular, the under-construction Express Rail Link (ERL), which will offer high-speed train service to mainland China, could benefit those designers with transit experience, he says; others whose resumes include theme park experience might also find work. Hong Kong Disneyland, which opened in 2005, is constantly growing. And Ocean Park, an older offering, completed a $710 million expansion last year.
Also, Hong Kong’s many investment banks continue to need new office space, Law adds, and there’s a growing medical sector, as Chinese mainlanders come to the city for care, he said. “There’s a need there for a lot of international expertise,” he says.
But the development plans that will likely draw the most interest, according to designers and government officials, involve both the West Kowloon Cultural District and the former Kai Tak Airport.
For example, the 100-acre Kowloon site, for which Norman Foster completed a master plan last spring, is to have galleries and performance spaces. In March, the city launched a public design competition for the Xiqu Centre, an opera house that’s to be one of 15 venues at the site.
Because the government owns most of Hong Kong’s land, layers of bureaucracy can slow many projects; a shortage of buildable lots is another hurdle. Other U.S. architects complain that rules dictating an overabundance of contactors on job sites can be a drag.
Still, ribbons have lately been cut on several buildings by American architects, who have helped the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), founded in 1997, swell from 161 members in 2002 to 264 today.
Opus Hong Kong, a luxury residence from Frank Gehry, who’s designed only one other Asian building, opened in May. Landmark East, a pair of shimmering high-rise office towers, is from Arquitectonica, which has a 50-person office there.
And, this winter, the Hong Kong branch of the Asia Society, from Williams/Tsien, opened at a former British armory that was empty since the 1980s. The project, which includes galleries and theaters, and open-air bridges that zigzag across a lush hillside, took 11 years to complete, says Williams, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Hong Kong “is growing at a slower speed than the rest of the cities in China,” he says, “and in many ways, that’s been to its betterment.”