Bronze Tower In The City of Victoria
‘Bronze, as a colour close to gold, gives an aura of luxury. Used in such vast array as on the new St. George’s Building, Hong Kong, its effect is almost Babylonian. The 275 ft. high building is entirely clad in bronze-coloured aluminium curtain walling, set with bronze – tinted glass spandrels. The glass is backed with aluminium net curtains to reflect sunlight and reduce the heat load.’ Far East Builder, 1969
St George’s Building: A Brief Portrait
First built in 1904 on land reclaimed by the Praya Reclamation Scheme, St George’s Building has long been intertwined with the history of Central District and the wider economic and architectural development of Hong Kong. St George’s has served as the headquarters of Sir Elly Kadoorie & Sons since the inter-war era and provided a home for many notable Hong Kong and international businesses for more than 100 years. These merchants, traders and businessmen have witnessed the building’s evolution from a modest four storey building at the turn of the century to the bronze skyscraper we see today.
Named after England’s Patron Saint by ardent monarchist Sir Paul Chater, the first St George’s Building was developed as part of Hongkong Land’s Central District property portfolio, which started with No. 2 Connaught Road Central (later renamed the New Oriental Building) in 1898.
By the turn of the century, a further five buildings were completed including St George’s. Designed by prominent architecture firm Leigh & Orange, St George’s Building displayed the dramatic Edwardian Baroque architecture so favoured by Hong Kong’s early mercantile and trading community. Home to leading businesses such as Shewan Tomes & Co., the building was serviced by a solitary cage lift, and the office interiors were cooled by ‘punkha wallas’: young men and women employed to pull drapes of cloth to encourage a through-flow of air before the age of air conditioning. The building was purchased outright by Sir Elly Kadoorie in 1928.
Post-war Hong Kong was no longer solely reliant on entrepot trade but the site of a rapidly expanding manufacturing and tourism scene. The buildings in Hong Kong’s commercial district reflected this change, with the topography of Central undergoing a dramatic evolution in line with the increasing clamour for office space. Amidst the changing face of Central, brothers Lawrence Kadoorie (later Lord) and Horace Kadoorie (later Sir) decided to redevelop St George’s to cater to this growing demand. A trio of Chinese, Austrian and Scottish architects were chosen to fulfil the Kadoories’ ‘unique’ and ‘prestige’ design brief: Faitfone Wong had previously designed several of the houses on the Kadoorie Estate, Walter Marmorek was a celebrated architectural conservator and Peter Womersley an award-winning architect. The new 275ft St George’s Building was unveiled in 1969 to great acclaim as one of the first aluminium curtain-wall designs in Hong Kong, the American Club and the Bank of America were two of its earliest tenants. The new building was serviced by nine Schindler lifts, the fastest in Hong Kong at that time, as well as a technologically advanced building management system.
With a total floor area of 183,000 square feet, two retail shops on the ground floor and office units above, today’s St George’s Building has remained the preferred address for a large and healthy range of tenants, including boutique financial services, private investors and family offices, insurance, legal, personnel and other specialists servicing the needs of Hong Kong’s financial and business community. For them, St George’s Building provides a prime yet discreet location at the very heart of the Central Business District, while retaining its distinct character and the same high standards of management that the Kadoorie brothers insisted upon from outset in 1969.