Fluidity and transparency of the spatial arrangement were the emphasis of the design concept for iSQUARE. The program of the building has two major components—retail shops and restaurants. The new retail experience extends up the full height of the building through a series of sky-atria that orchestrate spatial tensions in stratifications within the space. The vibrant spatial energy, in perfect accord with the bustling but somewhat chaotic contextual character of this part of Tsim Sha Tsui, is likewise manifested on the strangled and dislocated external formal treatment of the tower that allows it to stand out in the congested skyline. Oddly shaped as it may seem, the form is generated entirely in response to contextual view angles, circulation arrangements, and the functional needs of the new design brief. By drawing in the public’s participation into the architecture it permeates the public domain to the highest floors allowing the site to now assume an enhanced civic significance.
On the exterior, the two forces of fluidity and transparency are manifested through an interplay of a series of large volume glass boxes and escalator systems: the ground floor and first floor of the new building are occupied by double-story-high branded flagship shops with direct street access. A set of express escalators deliver visitors directly onto the second floor of the building—the Lobby Floor—where journeys to different destinations begin: a double volume Event Floor, Restaurant Floor, Cinema Boxes, and ultimately a 400-seat IMAX cinema, the largest in Hong Kong, floating in the sky at the top of the podium. All these express escalators are strategically placed along the Nathan Road façade as bridge connections to the various sky atria to echo the movement and dynamism in the bustling streets below.
At the top of the building, to capitalize on the breathtaking panoramic view of Victoria Harbor towards Hong Kong Island on the south, and also to positively respond to the blocky urban fabric at higher altitude, a 12-story tower housing most of the food and beverage outlets was planned and oriented for view optimization. Full-story-high vision glass panels at the three major façades have been allowed for at the tower. Balconies facing south are added to promote outdoor dining for the enjoyment of sunshine. In contrast to the tower element, where capitalization of harbor view is a major design direction, the podium portion of the building only reaches to a height similar with the existing adjoining buildings in the neighborhood, thus helping sustain continuity of the lower building line with a greater sense of urban block delineation.
For the podium, apart from the sky atria, a large portion of the podium façade is clad with a specially designed opaque curtain wall system integrated with warm white LED lights. This innovative lighting scheme gives a unique glowing lantern effect which blends well with the existing neon-covered streetscape of Nathan Road at night and yet remains visually distinctive from the rest. LED lights were strategically chosen, instead of typical metal halide lighting, for reduced energy consumption.
The use of the curtain wall system with composite backpan incorporating thermal insulation at the podium not only creates a neat and tidy outlook to the new building (unlike other typical shopping malls), but also contributes to the reduction of cooling load. Similarly, for capturing the magnificent sea view, insulated glass units consisting of double low-E glass panes are adopted at the vision panels of the tower without increasing the burden on the air-conditioning system. In order to achieve a better energy efficiency result, water-cooled chillers have also been adopted for the centralized air-conditioning system of the new building for the higher coefficient of performance (COP) as compared to air-cooled chillers.