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Man who 'turned on the lights' wins ICE International Medal

25 October 2019

All about this year's International Medal winner at the ICE Awards, Sir Gordon Wu.

Man who 'turned on the lights' wins ICE International Medal
Sir Gordon Wu

Earlier this month, Sir Gordon Wu from Hong Kong was named the winner of the ICE International Medal at the annual ICE Awards.

The ICE Fellow has a legendary reputation as a visionary civil engineer, is one of Asia’s best-known entrepreneurs, and dubbed as “the man who turned the lights on” by former President of the Philippines, Fidel Ramos.

“Receiving the ICE International Award has come a pleasant surprise to me. Despite the fact that I have been privileged enough to have received many prizes and awards over the past decades of my life, an award from my own beloved professional body, the ICE, means a great deal close to my heart," Sir Gordon said.

"ICE International Award has a meaningful value to me and I have enjoyed every moment of my career as a civil engineer contributing the world."

He sees the big picture

As founder and chairman of Hopewell Holdings Limited and Hopewell Highway Infrastructure Limited, for the last 40 years Sir Gordon has been instrumental in planning, financing, constructing and operating numerous large and world-class infrastructure projects, particularly in East Asia.

He's a civil engineer who's not only conversant with the technical details of projects, but also sees the big picture of the “why”, “what”, and “how”.

Sir Gordon believes that “infrastructure is to improve efficiency and productivity.”

He was one of the first investors to enter China in the early 1980s, following China’s open door and reform policy, and played a key role in transforming the Chinese economy by building power plants and highways in advance of any specific national standards.

Back then, China was a strange place for everyone outside of Mainland China, but he dared to take on the challenge of delivering his visionary plans, convincing government officials on China’s needs and subsequently building the necessary infrastructure.

Innovating with power stations

During Sir Gordon’s very first five-star hotel development in Guangzhou, he realised the lack of power supply in South China hindered the quality of people’s life and economic growth. This led to his involvement with developing power stations.

He built power stations with a total capacity of 6,125MW, including Shajiao-B Power Station. Shajiao B was a world-record with the project completed in 22 months from ground-breaking to electricity generation.

It also demonstrated the significant achievement of the slip-form technology and was awarded with a British Construction Industry Award (BCIA) in 1988.

Connecting roads

Sir Gordon is a hands-on engineer who spent a lot of time supervising his projects as well as lobbying governments.

His third pursuit was that he envisaged how a superhighway and interconnected road system between Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Zhuhai, around the Pearl River Delta (now called The Greater Bay Area) would help develop the whole region, at a time when many people could hardly afford to buy bicycles, let alone pay to drive on a tolled road.

Anticipating the potential for manufacturing in Guangdong and the importance of connectivity to Hong Kong, Sir Gordon built a 123km-highway on a 30-year BOT [Build-Operate-Transfer] basis, a concept then new to China and Asia.

Subsequently, Hopewell built and managed about 408km of road networks in Guangdong alone, which proved to be a crucial ingredient for China to become the biggest manufacturer in the world.

These investments in transportation and power have contributed to the economic growth of Guangdong, benefitting a population of over 100 million.

The recently commissioned fixed crossing, linking up Hong Kong, Zhuhai and Macau Bridge-Tunnel was also originally conceived and promoted by Sir Gordon 35 years ago.

His achievement to the engineering industry was recognised by the award of the KCMG by The Queen of England in 1997.

It was also acknowledged by China’s current leader, President Xi Jinping, who praised (in his speech) Sir Gordon’s contribution to the development of modern China, during the recent 40th anniversary celebration of China’s Reform.

His infrastructure vision also extended to the Philippines and Indonesia, which played a major role in East Asia’s rapid economic growth in the latter part of the 20th century.

Get involved

If you know of a deserving person or project, please consider putting them forward for one of the awards this year. You can find more information here:

ICE Awards

  • Ms Eva Kong, Regional Director for Hong Kong