Project in Detail
West Kowloon Terminus
Aedas, Quarry Bay, Hong Kong
World Architecture Festival 2010 - Category Winner
As a strong indicator in recent years, between Hong Kong and mainland China, the West Kowloon Terminus is both a symbol and a functional representation of how improved relations have become. The high-speed rail terminus station will connect Hong Kong to Beijing with the largest rail network in our history. Located centrally in Hong Kong within the city’s existing urban realm, the 430,000 square meters facility with fifteen tracks will be the largest below ground terminus station in the world.
WKT will function more like an international airport than a rail station as Hong Kong Special Administrative Region maintains economic and political incentives from P.R.C. Consequently, the facility needs to have both custom and immigration controls for departing and arriving passengers. What is highly unusual in this facility is that West Kowloon Terminus will have immigration domain for both Hong Kong and China in the same facility as opposed to how immigration works in a typical international airport, which is solely the domain of the host country.
The site’s prominence immediately adjacent to the future West Kowloon Cultural District and next to Victoria Harbor required a design which was completely motivated by civic demand. Enriching the challenge was the reality that there would be 400,000 square meters of commercial development on top of the station which would be auctioned off to a developer in a later date.
As the “gateway” to Hong Kong, it was considered vital to connect the station with the surrounding urban context and make one aware that whether arriving or departing – “You are in Hong Kong”. In order to do this, the design compacted all of the supporting spaces more efficiently to allow for a very large void down into the departure hall below as well as apertures down to the track platforms. The outside ground plane bent down to the hall and the roof structure above gestures toward the harbor. The result is a 45 meter high volume which focuses all attention through the south façade toward views of the Hong Kong Central skyline and Victoria Peak beyond.
The terminus station has two target destinations: regional commuter trains and long-haul high speed trains. The commuter trains go across Hong Kong territory to Shenzhen, a booming China border city, and further to the north to Guangzhou, the capital of Canton. Research performed on the civil engineering side concluded, based on urban make-up and internal site restrictions – the short haul tracks needed to be placed on the western side of the site with the long-haul being located to the eastern side. The locations of these tracks were / are fixed. In addition, is the realization that 80% of the station users are short-haul commuters. Consequently, reducing travel times for these passengers is a priority.
The “baseline” scheme had segregated immigration by operation. Which seemed to make sense from a territorial point of view, however caused great inefficiencies within the planning diagram. Our scheme actually stacked territories so that all immigration facilities for arrivals are on one floor and all departure facilities are on another. By relating jurisdictions on top of each other, so that each others arrivals and departure facilities are stacked and connected, it actually made the inner workings easier and consequently more efficient. Locating the immigration facilities over the short-haul tracks significantly reduced station travel times for short-haul passengers. Their location functioning well beneath the density of the future commercial spaces also optimizes the openness of the void and entrance building on the opposite side of the site.
The organization of the design was inspired by converging forces all oriented toward Hong Kong - likened to the converging tracks coming into the terminus station itself. The project maximizes civic gestures both internally and externally. The station is sculpted out of the energy of these moves and strongly defines its motive to open up and focus toward Victoria Harbor and the Hong Kong skyline. The culturally district of WKCD is invited into the site. A large “Civic Square” opens up toward the cultural district and is defined on the other side with its own outdoor performance amphitheatre.
The pedestrian flow into this amphitheatre continues up, accessing almost the entire roof top of the station itself in a highly vegetated sculpture garden and landscaped extension of the green below. The resultant open space is almost five times more area than an already ambitious mandate in the master plan. The green space provides links flowing through the site to a Public Transport Interchange to the North, The Austin Station subway station to the East, The Kowloon Station Development and Elements Mall to the West as well as internal connections into the WKT station itself and its future commercial development.
The hope is that this commercial development will eventually be knitted into the overall flow of the project seamlessly and was developed to a point of demonstrating viability. Fortunately however, the success of the development is not dependent on this integration. The image of the station will be preserved in the southeast corner of the site. The Civic Square will be defined by station entrances and station facilities on the east and west sides as well as adjacent, accessible paths moving up on top of the station into the green “roofscape”.
The culminations of these moves find themselves at an observation deck on top of the crest of the entrance building - twenty five meters above the Civic Square and forty five meters above the Departure Hall below. At the top there is the perfect overlook as an extension of the journey into Hong Kong - into and beyond the West Kowloon Cultural District; into and beyond Victoria Harbor and into and beyond the tower filled alleyways of Hong Kong. The station may be visible below as a reminder of where one came - but the future paths of discovery present themselves invitingly beyond.
Client / Developer
MTR Corporation Hong Kong