SOUTHEAST ASIA BUILDING30 Dec 2019
Rocco Design Architects Associates complete Hong Kong Skyscraper Church
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Hong Kong – Wesleyan House Methodist Church embraces a challenging site in Wan Chai, Hong Kong. The building both provides a serene sanctuary space for worshippers in this bustling location and enriches the surrounding urban fabric. The project stands on a teardrop-shaped site at the corner of Queen's Road East – a major four-lane road, and Kennedy Road. The site itself is tight: as 11,000 square metres of program needs to fit on an 800 square metres plot, the building inevitably needs to go up. 

As such, the design creates a vertical church, integrating the sanctuary, chapels, activity halls, social service floors, and pastoral offices into a tower. Wesleyan House building defines its skyline by slanting gently and subtly from the base to the top to project its image as a religious institution.

The resulting skyscraper church offers unique opportunities to create signature spaces for worship. The sky chapel on the top floor of the tower boasts sweeping views of the harbor to the north and the hills to the south, creating a unique space that takes advantage of the beauty of the surroundings. Carefully considered adjacencies optimise church operations. A large congregation hall sits above the main sanctuary, inviting worshippers to come together after the service. Church offices and pastoral residences sit on adjacent vertical floors, creating easy access between them while retaining distinct identities: a place to work on the one hand and a place to live on the other.

The exterior design creates an entry sequence that transitions from the busy streetscape to the peaceful sanctuary within. A gently curving facade manifests the notion of embracing and flowing, creating a robust presence on Queen's Road East while ushering visitors into a public plaza that separates the church from the street. This public plaza peels away to transition from the city towards the peaceful sanctuary within. Set on the intersection, it acts as a hinge that improves pedestrian connectivity between these two roads, creates open sightlines in the dense context, and offers a much needed public gathering space. 

Various spatial entities also connect as a trajectory, leading from the street to the ground floor open space and to the sanctuary. People arrive greeted by the music from the carillon, pass by the historic stone wall, the tree of life, and the inscribed plaques through a blending of inside and outside spaces that helps to foster their mood for worship. The main sanctuary has a restrained material and color palette. To create a peaceful and solemn worship place, natural daylight focuses on the altar with a backdrop of an eight meters tall wall in pure solid white, punctuated along by a glazed cross-shaped opening. The lightscope above the ceiling softens and diffuses the sunlight onto the altar.

The building – which employs several innovative environmental sustainability features – expects to earn silver Hong Kong BeamPlus sustainability rating. With a solid core wall facing east, the design opts for casement windows instead of a curtain wall to minimize heat gain, particularly on the west elevation. Large windows on the north- and south-facing facades maximize daylighting and views in the sky chapel, congregation halls, and church offices. The orientation of the building creates cross-breezes in the residences, offering natural ventilation.