Pearl River Necklace by NL Architects


Pearl River Necklace by NL Architects

NL Architects have designed a conceptual bridge for the Hong Kong border, featuring roads that would loop over each other to allow for the fact that traffic must drive on the left in Hong Kong but on the right in China.

Pearl River Necklace by NL Architects

Called Pearl River Necklace, the design would link artificial islands to form a bridge between Hong Kong, Zhuhai and Macau.

Pearl River Necklace by NL Architects

NL Architects designed the project for the Hong Kong Boundary Crossing Facilities International Design Ideas Competition.

Pearl River Necklace by NL Architects

Here's some more information from the architects:

Pearl River Necklace

Hong Kong Boundary Crossing Facilities (HKBCF) International Ideas Competition 2010.

Pearl River Necklace by NL Architects


The idea to construct the Hong Kong Boundary Crossing Facilities as “a new Landmark to reflect Hong Kong as a vibrant global and metropolitan city” is an inspiring endeavor. However some of the key elements in the design turn out to be a fixed precondition: the shape of the landmass and more importantly the infrastructure itself are not part of the design task… a missed opportunity!

Starting point

The proposed Master Layout Plan is a technocratic solution: ingenious but not yet sublime

Pearl River Necklace by NL Architects

Plastic Surgery

Beauty comes from within. So if we want to turn the project into a true success we cannot just focus on superficial improvements. We should concentrate on the intrinsic qualities: we should work with the organs and intestines too…


We realize that a lot of effort has already been invested in the current configuration, but there seem to be unexplored capacities… Pearl River Necklace took the liberty to propose some radical adjustments in the principles of the Boundary Crossing Facilities. Not out of arrogance -we understand that we lack the ability at this moment to fully comprehend all the complexities of the task at hand- but out of a profound love for the inspiring potential embedded in the assignment. Maybe it is not too late to loose the shackles?

Pearl River Necklace by NL Architects

Traffic Gem

Pearl River Necklace is an attempt to untying the knot. It is a breakdown of the complexities of the Border Crossing Facilities into a ‘Necklace of Shining Pearls’. The objective is to bring to the surface the intrinsic beauty of the HKBCF and at the same time to reinforce the attractiveness of the projected Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge.

Rope and Knot Magic

Bisecting the enormous complexity of the Boundary Crossing facility in its core elements -Bus/Couch Passenger Clearance and Private Car and Cargo Checkpoints- allows for a simpler and perhaps more ‘meaningful’ organization. By taking the facility apart and remixing it in a new way a remarkably beautiful organism comes into being. What we need is a Houdini to perform some sort of Rope and Knot Magic.

Pearl River Necklace by NL Architects

Traffic Switch

Hong Kong has traffic on the left where China has traffic on the right. In principle this additional complexity has to be solved inside the Border Crossing Facilities. Within the proposed master layout plan this leads to fairly unarticulated intersections. It solves the switch, but does not ‘communicate’ it explicitly. In fact the proposed switches mimic a regular interchange; they do not stage a special event. Can we turn the moment of swapping into an unforgettable spectacle? Can we enhance awareness of motorists while at the same time creating an unprecedented driving experience?


The Flipper is a device that is designed to ‘celebrate’ the traffic switch. The Flipper aspires to make tangible the change of the road system. It hopes to elegantly redirect vehicles in a smooth and safe way. The Flipper should be part of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge. By introducing the Flipper close to the actual border the traffic system of the Border Crossing Facilities can become more simple…

Pearl River Necklace by NL Architects

Archipelago Logo

It is surprising that while being located next to one of the busiest airports in the world the proposed manmade island lacks ‘communicative capacity’. The new landmass doesn’t appear emblematic. With the emergence of palm islands, a tulip shaped island and a recently discovered heart shaped island, only to name a few, this seems to be a missed opportunity.


Pearl River Necklace introduces an Archipelago of Artificial Islands on the border of Hong Kong and China; a string of specifically formed islands that derive their form and their beauty from their function. Lucky Charm Bracelet.

Pearl River Necklace by NL Architects

Take me to the Bridge

In the proposed master layout plan the Border Crossing Facilities, paradoxically, are not located on the border… Wouldn’t it be more accurate to position the border on the border?


It is surprising that in the proposed Master Layout Plan the crucial moment of crossing the border is NOT perpendicular to the road you travel on. Through a mysterious detour the ‘border’ is aligned parallel with the main artery. This arrangement is blurring the clear schematic of the event. As a consequence the proposed plan does not perform as a true Logo. If the Border Crossing Facilities will be part of the ‘Bracelet’ the system can easily be rotated 90 degrees and as such rediscover its ‘natural’ position. And in the process shorten the road…

Pearl River Necklace by NL Architects


Crossing a border can be an exciting event. The efficient compression of the Private Car Kiosks as suggested by the Proposed Master Layout Plan however obscures the visual clarity that lies at the heart of the assignment. The current layout does not do justice to the dramatic potential of crossing a border. The sheer mass of unprecedented mobility could be articulated more theatrically. By aligning the booths in one long line a striking effect can be created. The visual simplicity of aligning the kiosks will establish a blissful entry: abstract, pure, logical

Border Atoll

Unfolding the Private Car Kiosks into a monumental linear structure automatically transforms the shape of the island. It shifts to a smooth organic form. A by-pass for the bus and coach access is created through the middle.

Pearl River Necklace by NL Architects


The Passenger Clearance Building and its arteries in principle have a beautiful organization. But even here logistics could be made more user-friendly. By arranging the drop-off bays on the first level passengers have to descend only. The walking distances are reduced and made more comfortable. And a symmetrical typology comes into being, hierarchy is taken out off the system and a spectacular interlocking of flows emerges, together but separate.

The Elevated Elevated Road

Pearl River Necklace proposes to elevate the section of the Hong Kong Zhuhai Macau Bridge right in front of the entrance of the Tunnel. The additionally heightened position of the road will give the opportunity to overlook your trajectory; it allows you to get a glimpse of your destination. And driving towards Hong Kong, the Elevated Elevated Road will grand a view onto the sensational traffic Flipper and the Border Crossing Facilities.

See also:


Virtual Realities by
NL Architects
Feel the Difference
by NL Architects
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Posted on Tuesday June 8th 2010 at 8:30 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • Once again we find an age old battle unfold – Theoretical user sensory perfection versus the actual, realistic end-user practicality- fighting to gain the upper, as yet hypothetical hand. On paper, one (architectural agency, perhaps?) can easily construct, `the`, perfectly composed written synopsis, encompassing a clients demanded “ideologically perfect project brief” coupled with, an admittingly accomplished, self-gratifyingly graphic representation, to achieve the perfect “pay-day” consultancy project. Realistically, hypothetical end-user assumptions and carte blanche theoretical designs must be replaced with functionality, practicality and rationality, the standard benchmarks for globally accomplished consultancies.

  • nomad

    such a simple and beautiful idea based off real limits

  • Haha great! Love those Superstudio like virtual realities of NL. Great addition to their visuals at the 2008 Venice bienale.

  • pero

    this is so sick

  • love it! but how does a boat get under?

    • nadia

      there's a tunnel not far from it where boats can go over.. you can see it on one of the aerial views

  • corey

    “beautiful design, now where did you say i could find the cost estimate & feasibility study?”

  • Tommo from HCMC

    pearl necklace? …seriously? well, there is a lot related between architecture and porn nowdays i guess…

  • Martin

    the water scale is totally out on the top pic.. makes it look like a toy model.

  • bob

    Nice! If seen from space.

  • Arch. Berry

    well the bridge idea is so wrong! they completely blocked marine circulation below the bridge! beside river water level can flood the lower part sometimes of the year!

  • cavalla

    where is the need in this twisted bridge i.e.?

  • it’d make a fun racing scene in a new bourne movie

  • tiffany

    design needs irrationality in order to create beauty. You don’t sound like the happy person I would want to work with….. Great project, light and at the same time very functional.

  • Thomas

    i love the playful nature of NL architects! Wonderful project!

  • Pcomella


  • Valentin

    Incredible idea!. Nice project but I’m not sure if the nature could handle it …

  • Loretta

    Things in china are getting crazier each day.

  • I modeled the bridge and posted a video with live traffic and water simulation on YouTube using PixelActive CityScape. Let me know what you think!



  • Um.

    Wouldn’t it be easier (and cheaper) to make the crossover on land, than over the water?

  • Andy

    Interesting.. but what’s going to happen when the water rises?

  • tanya telford – T

    first time ive really read and looked at this. From past experience (at one time was using Hong Kong/China boarder crossing alot) im more or less (ish – at least in part) with ‘eyeontheworld’ on this one. Seems the design is not really taking into consideration the real realities of this boarder, who uses it, type of traffic, surrounding landscape etc etc. Having said this I haven’t seen how it is very recently.

  • prok

    "Pearl necklace" Is this a joke title?

  • Eng. J. I