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Inverted podium

One of the things that I noticed yesterday morning on my walkabout from Wan Chai to Causeway Bay is that some/many of the buildings in Hong Kong actually step-in, as opposed to step-back, once you get above the base or “podium.” In many cases the step-in comes out almost to the curb line.

(Note how the reference point is the public realm. You step back from it or you step into it.)

Here is an example:


Setbacks and step-backs are longstanding urban design tools because they can allow more light to reach the street and they can visually break-up the mass of a building and establish clear datum lines, among other things.

We’re obsessed with them in Toronto because everyone is always trying to hide building height. But in Hong Kong, space is such a rare commodity that it seems to be about filling in every available inch.

I posted this remark on Twitter yesterday and it was suggested that some of these step-ins may have been the result of additions made after the fact. They seemed original to me, but whatever the case may be, they are an existing condition that I have started calling the inverted podium.

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