HISTORY – Evolution of the Hong Kong Skyline – a Visual History

Below is a brief visual history of how the Hong Kong skyline developed over the decades.

Pre-1869 painting of Hong Kong harbour

Pre-1869 painting via RGS-IBG image / E. L. Watling

1880s – Beginning with a rare shot of the harbour from the 19th century – the same decade in which the Star Ferry became operational.

 Hong Kong harbour

via New York Times

 Hong Kong harbour

1890, click to enlarge

1900s – Next, a quaint postcard from 1906 (via gwulo.com)…

 Hong Kong harbour

via gwulo.com

1910s – The CBD, gradually creeping up The Peak, was then named Victoria City. There was no light show back then (but click here for a photo of the harbour at night, some 106 years ago!)…

 Hong Kong harbour

1920s-30s – Development was minimal throughout the 20s and 30s. The original HSBC building, completed in 1936, became the centrepiece of the skyline (click here for a close-up shot) – it featured a mixed art deco and stripped classical style and was the first to feature full air-conditioning…

via gwulo.com

via gwulo.com

 Hong Kong harbour

via thecorner.org

1928 Hong Kong skyline

1928, via samcpherson.homestead.com

The Battle of Hong Kong was waged in 1941 (click here for aerial pictures of the bombardment).

1950s-60s It was not until the tumultuous 1960s that things really began to develop on the booming harbour front. Refugees from China, especially from Shanghai, provided skills and labour, helping to revive the economy. There was unprecedented growth as the city was transformed into a manufacturing hub. Hong Kong made anything-and-everything that could be produced in a small space, such as buttons, artificial flowers, textiles, umbrellas, footwear and plastics.

An iconic building, which today is known as the Bank of China building, makes an appearance replacing the original City Hall…

Hong Kong skyline

Click here for footage of the waterfront in 1952.

Hong Kong skyline

Skyline of Hong Kong


1970s-80s – In the 70s and 80s, land reclamation began in Wan Chai and Causeway Bay and Jardine House (completed in 1976) became an iconic symbol of HK.

Hong Kong skyline

In 1972, the first cross-harbour tunnel opened, linking the peninsula to HK Island. During the same year, a British luxury liner sank in the harbour (click here for pictures and a video.)

lVkZGl.jpg (800×376)

In 1975, the Bank of America Tower was completed. Two-years later, on Kowloon-side, the Tsim Sha Shui KCR station was dismantled, leaving only the Clock Tower…

Click here for a visual history of the Tsim Sha Shui Clock Tower.

rkmCBl.jpg (800×493)

In 1979, the Prince of Wales Building (currently the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Forces Hong Kong Building) opened whilst the city’s first circular building, the Hopewell Centre, came online in 1980…

Hong Kong skyline

The MTR system expanded rapidly and the Bank of China Tower was completed in 1989, opening a year later…

Hong Kong skyline

1990s – The mid-levels escalator was completed in 1993 and helped open up new areas in Central. The new decade also gave rise to the new Standard Chartered building in 1990 and Central Plaza in 1992. The Cheung Kong Center opened in 1999.

MIFVMl.jpg (800×415)

via Flickr

2000s – The 88-storey IFC2 opened in 2003 and the Wanchai Exhibition Centre was fully completed in 2005. By now, despite the efforts of The Antiquities and Monuments Board, few vestiges of colonial heritage remained.

Today, 45 buildings now take part in the nightly Symphony of Lights – the world’s largest light and sound show…

85oqll.jpg (800×380)

IFC2 has since been eclipsed by the 118 storey International Commerce Centre in West Kowloon, which was topped-out in 2010 and remains the tallest skyscraper in Hong Kong.

The map below from the Hong Kong History Museum shows just how much of the harbour has been reclaimed. Areas in light blue show Victoria Harbour today…

gn4Evl.jpg (800×480)

via Flickr

p6AHZl.png (800×480)

via Wikimedia, click to enlarge


Blog posts charting Hong Kong’s colourful past…

Pictorial histories of local landmarks and events…

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