Leigh & Orange

Leigh & Orange Ltd, founded in Hong Kong in 1874, is an international architectural and interior design practice. The group has a total of 550 staff and operates through its Headquarters in Hong Kong with Branch Offices in Shanghai, Beijing, Fuzhou, Bangkok, Dubai, Bahrain and Qatar.


* Hong Kong, SAR,
* Shanghai, China
* Beijing, China
* Fuzhou, China
* Bangkok, Thailand

Middle East
* Dubai, United Arab Emirates
* Bahrain
* Doha, Qatar

elected Works

* Hong Kong Science Park Phase 2, Hong Kong
* CEO Office Tower, Beijing, PRC
* Lan Hua International Tower, Beijing, PRC
* Ristorante Isola, Central, Hong Kong
* Al Shaqab Equestrian Academy, Doha
* Main Building, University of Hong Kong [Main Building, University of Hong Kong "The oldest structure in the University of Hong Kong was sponsored by Sir Hormusjee Naorojee Mody and designed by Architect Messrs Leigh & Orange." ]
* TVB City, Hong Kong [TVB City, "Building Informaiton" section]
* World Finance Tower, Shanghai [World Finance Tower
"World Finance Tower is a 43 floor tower in the Pudong area of Shanghai and was completed in 2000. It was built by architects Leigh and Orange."


Founded in Hong Kong in 1874, Leigh & Orange began as a company called Sharp & Danby. It took two decades and four name changes for the firm to evolve step by step, into Leigh & Orange. The company first started off by Mr Granville Sharp, a businessman who had been sent out to the colony of Hong Kong to open a branch of the Commercial Bank of India. The story of Granville Sharp (a distant cousin of the famous Conversation Sharp), and of his wife Matilda (in whose name Granville set up the Matilda Hospital, Hong Kong) is told in Joyce Smith's excellent book. ['Matilda - A Hong Kong Legacy', Joyce Stevens Smith, Pub.1988 Hong Kong, ISBN 962-729-003-7] Having "enormous faith in the future of Hong-Kong", Granville Sharp had morphed into a major land dealer and acquired the nickname “the notorious professional philanthropist and champion land jobber”.Connections were key to success. One close friend of Sharp’s, Sir Paul Chater, helped support the firm with commissions. Another fellow member of the Masonic Lodge was the newly arrived William Danby, a qualified engineer and architect. By 1874 Sharp and Danby had agreed to a partnership; Sharp providing the land and Danby deciding what to build on it. Success brought growth and eventually, new partners. Mr Sharp left the firm in 1880, Robert K Leigh joined in 1882 and Mr James Orange in 1890. The early projects helped establish a reputation for institutional or ‘public’ work, such as Mr Danby’s design for the Clock Tower Fountain in Statue Square. When Danby left the firm in 1894, its name altered to Leigh & Orange, and then stayed that way.

During the 1890’s, a period of intense construction ensued, spurred by the Central Praya Reclamation Project, which gave the city a large chunk of what is now Central’s core land base between Des Voeux and Connaught roads. The architecture of the new buildings situated in this area expressed the gothic/classical style of the era, many with ground floor arcades to shelter from rain and sun. By now Leigh & Orange, encouraged by the patronage of Sir Paul Chater, was considered the prime architectural office of the colony. Where the Mandarin Oriental Hotel now stands, the firm built the Queen’s Building, a large office block that solidified the firm’s reputation. They then built the adjacent Prince’s Building, even larger. The St. Georges Building soon followed in 1904, a steel concrete structure with iron columns and teak floors. Such are the vagaries of historical records that there are some buildings no one really knows conclusively who designed, but Leigh & Orange’s early prominence in local architecture put them on shortlists for any number of the city’s major works. Yet the firm has never allowed itself to become specialized in only one or two building types, even if they were exalted ones. It designed go-downs, warehouses, docks and the Star Ferry wharves, critical components of the central city in the days when those zones were generally waterfront industrial in use. This fact also distinguishes Leigh & Orange from many other firms. The ability to move among genres helped the firm survive in tough times, and capitalize in good ones. Today from sports complexes to retail design, from residential and office towers to cultural and institutional projects and even to infrastructure work, Leigh & Orange can legitimately lay claim to an unsurpassed breadth of experience in project briefs.

One of the more eclectic buildings designed by the firm was the Ohel Leah Synagogue in Robinson Road in 1901. It heralded a period of interesting projects including Marble Hall, the residence of Sir Paul Chater on Conduit Road, a building eventually donated to the government, later to become the colony’s Admiral House. Chater also built St. Andrew’s Church with L&O, finished in 1904. As with many architecture firms, Leigh & Orange’s clients tended to stick with them, coming back repeatedly with new commissions and forming relationships that endured economic ups and downs. To this day, the firm enjoys longstanding working relationships with clients such as the Hong Kong Electric Company and the Hong Kong Jockey Club. As any professional knows, such relationships are hard to establish and easy to ruin, so the fact that they remain is of significance.

Robert Leigh retired from the firm in 1904 and James Orange in 1908. Since then, there have been a total of 23 other directors (currently there are five), but the masthead name never changed. That adds up to almost a century as a company named after principals no longer around, proof that something has been created that is larger than its individual parts, an aspect very much understood by subsequent directors.

In 1911 Leigh & Orange began work on the Hong Kong University’s flagship building, Lok Yew Hall, still in existent, a handsome arcade and courtyard building of brick and stone in the colonial style. It was to be the start of another long relationship that saw the architects design many more campus buildings, including professors’ residences, the sports grounds and the staff Common Room Building. In 1918, the firm built the School of Tropical Medicine and Pathology, and in 1932 the Fung Ping Shan Library Building. Recently, they have completed the Pauline Chan Amenities Building, staff quarters, the Animal House & Dentistry Accommodation, swimming pools and sports grounds. An award has been attained for the Kadoorie Biological Sciences Building at the university.

Other surviving early 20th century works by the firm include the Chinese YMCA on Bridges Street and the landmark Helena May Institute (attributed), opened in 1916 as a residence for single women in the colony. During the following decades, the firm’s fortunes rose and dipped along with those of the territory, affected by wars, occupation and reconstruction. Project types ranged from high-end residences to industrial storage buildings and everything in between, including more churches such as the Methodist Church in Wanchai (1955) and the Union Church in Kennedy Road (1949). Francis Howorth, a partner at L&O from 1954 designed the local landmark Mandarin Oriental Hotel, which replaced the old Queen’s Building in Central.

In 1950, L&O completed the new Masonic headquarters, Zetland Hall on Kennedy Road, and Edinburgh House for HongKong Land Investment Co. Schools appeared in the log books of the company in a big way in 1954, with the design of Sai Ying Poon School and the North Point Primary School. The Saint Francis School for the Canossian Mission soon followed, then a new wing for the Saint Mary’s School in Austen Road, Kowloon. Nineteen fifty-four marked the company’s commissioning for the new Jockey Club building in Happy Valley, which had to be constructed at a frantic pace to fit into the racing season. The building’s superstructure was erected at the rate of one floor every eight days, and followed the design of the grandstand at Bangkok. Both buildings were judged highly successful.

The ‘modern’ era was a busy one for the firm, with projects ranging across the programmatic map, and the geographical one. Many modern landmark buildings were constructed, and a new direction – or literally many directions – marked the firm’s growth. In 1990, Leigh & Orange established their Bangkok office. Since then it has opened offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Yangon. This new regionalism has provided the firm with a plethora of opportunities and commissions across Asia and across programme types. Meanwhile, projects such as Ocean Park, Tuen Mun Hospital and Gaia restaurant, all in Hong Kong, widened the firm’s reference base. L&O has landed multiple sports buildings in the Middle East, and large scale residential and office projects in mainland China. Occasionally more unique briefs come along, such as the Integer Pavilion, an environmental experiment set up on the waterfront Tamar Site. Currently on the boards: a huge addition of buildings to the Hong Kong Science Park, in its Phase 2.

In a sense, it could be said of Leigh & Orange, “they were in the right place at the right times”, for they have been building buildings large and small in Hong Kong throughout booms and busts, from the Ritz-Carlton Hotel (1993) in Central to Beijing’s Lan Hua International Building (2003); from the Isola Italian Restaurant (2004) in Central to the Al Janadriyah Racecourse (2003) in Saudi Arabia; from the Kadoorie Biological Sciences Building (1999) in Pokfulam to the Franciscan Church in Kowloon Tong, whether it is a sports building in Bahrain or Dubai, or an office complex in Beijing, whether a chic restaurant in Hong Kong or a tranquil residence in Thailand, the architects of Leigh & Orange always seem to push their own experience and skills a bit further, and to try to enhance the particular sub-category with their entry. There is little doubt, looking at the firm’s projects, that the work is thoroughly contemporary even though it has an over 130 year legacy to uphold and continue.

External links

* [http://www.leighorange.com Leigh & Orange website]


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