A rare insight into the drama behind the construction of a twentieth-century building
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In 1978 the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation set out to build a new headquarters in Hong Kong. Its first task was to find an architect to design a building that would also capture people's imagination and respect. Norman Foster, then one of Britain's most talented young architects, emerged from an international field of seven, to win the commission In 1979.
Six years later, the new bank was completed. Acclaimed as one of the most important buildings of the twentieth century, it is an architectural tour de force: stunning to look at, exhilarating in its detail, astonishing in the diversity of its spaces.
Foster is an architect of extraordinary capabilities and uncompromising vision. The terms set by the Bank were stringent: a building of the highest standards, equipped with the latest technology; the site, in a dense city environment, was very restricted. Foster had never previously built anything higher than four storeys. He now set out to build a skyscraper in a way that had not been attempted before.
Three years into the project, the job ran into deep trouble. With the foundations dug, and major contracts agreed, the Bank prepared to fire Foster. After six months of acute tension, new budgets and deadlines, the building - surrounded by controversy - went ahead. Two years later the bank was completed as Foster had visualised it. With unprecedented candour, both the Hongkong Bank and Norman Foster opened their professional and personal files to the author. This is the inside story of the design and construction of one of the most iconic buildings of the twentieth century.
Jonathan Cape (UK) and Little Brown (USA) l989
In praise of Hongkong Bank
‘Rich drama and suspense... scrupulously objective. You feel at the end of the book that you have helped to build the pyramids, not just another bank.’ Colin Amery, Financial Times.
‘Foster Associates ‘Hongkong and Shanghai Bank is stunning, even awe-inspiring as an object, but Williams’ ‘warts and all’ account of how it was created is easily its match.’ Patrick Hannay, Architects Journal.
‘Nothing can compete with Stephanie Williams’ racy description through all the trial and tribulations of designing and building... as gripping as a detective novel.’ John Winter, Architectural Review.