Sben Korsh

Sben Korsh
12:45 pm - 2:00 pm
Room 719, Knowles Building, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong
Design of a Free Market: Regulating Hong Kong’s Stock Exchange

RPG lunchtime presentation by Sben KORSH

Primary supervisor: Dr. Cecilia CHU
Co-supervisor: Dr. Eunice SENG, Prof. Weijen WANG


Seated aboard a Hong Kong harbour ferry in his 1980 PBS special, Free to Choose, Milton Friedman proclaimed, “If you want to see how the free market really works, this is the place to come!” Yet the reality of Hong Kong’s market stood in marked difference from Friedman’s neoclassical economic ideal. The same year the special aired, Hong Kong’s Legislative Council passed the Stock Exchange Unification Ordinance. The ordinance included financial regulations to restructure the colony’s four separate stock exchanges—culminating in the 1986 opening of a newly unified, and greatly expanded, Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKSE). Then in 1993, due to post-Mao economic reform, companies from China (including State-owned enterprises) began trading shares on the HKSE for the first time internationally. This paper examines the material restructuring of the HKSE within the history of its trading hall in Exchange Square, a 3.4 million-square-foot office development in Hong Kong’s financial district. Primary sources from the government, developer, engineers, architects and HKSE demonstrate how the architecture of Exchange Square included cutting-edge telecommunication and construction technologies necessary to accommodate the expanded trading that resulted directly from the financial regulations. Digital innovations included new computer terminals, shared data-processing, and the fastest telecommunication cables available. Tectonic features included a complex beam system for the giant column-free span, and measures to isolate the large hall structurally from the sway of the attached office towers. Focusing on these details within the HKSE’s trading hall—until now overlooked in historical studies—shows how government regulations were pivotal in shaping Hong Kong’s free market in the late-twentieth century.


Sben Korsh is an architectural historian currently researching the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. His research interests center around the intersection of architecture and urban history and theory with contemporary critical theory and political economic thought. Korsh conducts this work as an MPhil Candidate in the Department of Architecture at the University of Hong Kong. He has or will be presenting this research at the Society of Architectural Historians, the International Planning History Society, and the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain. This spring, he will take part in the first “spring school” of the Global Network on Financial Geography, and is co-chairing a round table on “Labor Issues in the Academy” at the Society of Architectural Historians’ annual meeting. The latter of these two events elaborates on ideas first developed in his co-edited volume, Asymmetric Labors: The Economy of Architecture in Theory and Practice, for The Architecture Lobby. Outside of academia, he has organized projects at architectural institutions including, amongst many others, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Van Alen Institute, and the Skyscraper Museum. Korsh holds degrees in architectural history and theory from the City University of New York, and the University of California, Berkeley.


***All interested are welcome***