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Old August 28th, 2009, 05:45 AM   #681
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deej View Post
Interesting thoughts.

While I agree with you that creative arts should be left to 'find their own space' without government intervention, my belief is that if the government needs to kick-start this process and play an active role in creating the "hardware".

Part of this is cultural. In places like the US, many of the museums had their start through wealthy collectors (Solomon Guggenheim, for example). I can't see Li Ka-Shing or the Kwok family doing something like that (although they are generous donors in other ways). Moreover, while this is changing, I think many HKers don't see creative arts necessarily as a good career. In any case, one can hope that WKCD won't just be another iconic building, but that funding will also go to supporting various cultural groups who would use the new venues.

Add in the fact that tourism is an important economic driver and that other Asian cities are also trying to lay claim as a cultural hub, you can see why the government is so keen to try to use West Kowloon as a differentiator. I don't think an opera house and another shopping center would cut it.

HK doesn't yet compare to NY or London, but when it comes to "serious culture", it has come a long way from even a few years ago.
I believe there are a few collectors in HK, and even more collectors that use collection as a means of investment. Whether they would showcase their collections, however, is another question. If its an open square type where it can be used as a venue, without being so large and so deliberately cultural, it can work, but there have been plenty of other spaces that could've been used for the same purpose, (I'm thinking of TST east), developing a new area (see the irony here?) specifically for that is puzzling.

Hong Kong has always had a certain depth of culture, maybe not as much as Paris or New York, but certainly internationally second tier, at least, it's just been that it has not been brought into the international view (other than movies), and gain the international recognition (the gov't is needed here) that Paris or NY might have.
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Old August 28th, 2009, 08:57 PM   #682
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The key is to give a platform for various cultural aspects to express themselves, and a cultural district is an overall signal that we no longer look at economic development from a financial perspective only. This is a good shift, and the willingness to spend the money to do this is an important policy shift.

However, to do this with expectations of profit or breakeven results is not the right approach. Cultural facilities do not usually generate good returns.
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Old September 2nd, 2009, 05:01 PM   #683
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Hong Kong’s other soul ; A debate is going on in Hong Kong right now...
27 August 2009
Business Standard

A debate is going on in Hong Kong right now as to whether it needs a Bilbao-type visual icon to transform its cultural landscape or just a plain-vanilla makeover to boost its image as an Asian cultural hub. At the heart of the debate is the government’s $2.7 billion plan to develop West Kowloon as an integrated cultural district where a string of theatres and concert halls would coexist with a full-fledged modern art museum.

Three top architectural firms — Foster & Partners, led by Norman Foster, the Office of Metropolitan Architecture led by Rem Koolhaas, and Rocco Design Architects — have been asked to produce a concept plan. The seed of the debate had been sown when Foster’s earlier submission, later rejected as being too ambitious, offered a design that would have eclipsed Singapore’s Esplanade in sheer novelty and established Hong Kong, China’s Special Administrative Region, as one of Asia’s foremost architectural and cultural destinations.

Foster had envisioned a grandiose pleasure garden on a section of reclaimed land on the West Kowloon waterfront, integrating a series of arts, performance, and leisure venues on an extensive cultural park within a dramatic, all-enveloping glass canopy. It would have been a unique addition to Hong Kong’s already vibrant landscape, providing people a special reason to visit the territory, just as the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, designed by the famous Canadian architect Frank Gehry, draws hordes of tourists to the Spanish industrial city and has changed its economy.

But even as the architectural consultants put their heads together to produce a more workable concept plan, nobody disputes that, given Hong Kong’s rich creative energy, generated by its enormous commercial and business prowess, the territory deserves to have a permanent home for the arts.

Hong Kong’s art ambitions have risen significantly in recent years, especially in light of its growing importance as an international art market. Both Sotheby’s and Christie’s have offices in the territory, where their auctions of Asian art are among top international art events, and the Hong Kong International Art Fair (Art HK), launched only a year ago, is already a huge success. Hong Kong’s affluence, its proximity to the Chinese mainland where buying power is growing exponentially, and its total tax immunity on the import, export, and sale of art have combined to give the territory an extraordinary marketing advantage.

In terms of auction sales, Hong Kong is already the third largest art market in the world, after New York and London, and the new-found world interest in Asian art, especially Chinese and Indian, as well affluent Asians’ interest in Western art, is fast transforming the place into a connoisseurs’ den, a kind of Basel of the East.

This year’s Art HK brought together 115 galleries from 26 countries and drew more than 27,000 visitors during its four-day run. The participants included Tokyo’s top contemporary art dealer Tonio Koyama, London’s influential Lisson Gallery and White Cube, and international mega-dealer Gagosian. The international importance of this event was emphasized when Damien Hirst’s Tranquillity, from his Butterfly series, fetched $1.71 million, making it the most expensive Hirst sold till now in Asia.

Contemporary art from China, Korea, and India have seen meteoric price gains in recent years. At a Christie’s auction last May, a 1985 oil painting by Chinese master artist Zao Wou-ki fetched $1.2 million.

This October, the peak season in Hong Kong for major international art dealers, collectors, and connoisseurs, Sotheby’s will offer for its autumn sales over 2,300 lots of modern and contemporary Chinese and Southeast Asian art valued in excess of $100 million.

Sotheby’s has been in Hong Kong since 1973 and Christie’s since 1986, but it’s only recently that their auctions have drawn special international attention. Seoul Auction, South Korea’s leading auction house is the latest to set up an office in the territory. As art biennales and triennales spread across China to create more potential buyers, it’s only logical that Hong Kong should raise its cultural game.

The West Kowloon Cultural District is the latest in a series of developments that have helped substantially to give Hong Kong’s hard business-city shell a soft cultural soul. Hong Kong has long been a pioneer of modernist architecture in Asia. Sir Lawrence Kadoorie’s legendary collection of jade sculpture is only one example of Hong Kong’s exceptionally vigorous tradition of corporate art. And Henry Moore’s Double Oval in Exchange Square has been an abiding influence in preparing the ground for Hong Kong’s espousal of public art in a big way in recent years.

The Tung Chung Artwalk at Yat Tung Township, the Sculpture Walk in Kowloon Park, and the interactive Island East Artwalk, developed by Swire Properties, are only a few examples of how the promotion of art and culture is now as important a concern for Hong Kong as moneymaking.
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Old September 7th, 2009, 08:02 PM   #684
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Old September 10th, 2009, 10:55 AM   #685
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51 vying for top post at arts hub
8 September 2009
South China Morning Post

Fifty-one people are competing for the top job at the West Kowloon arts hub, lawmakers were told yesterday.

Sin Chung-kai, chairman of the remuneration committee of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority Board, said: "We are not just looking for someone who has worked in a cultural organisation - that is not enough. We need someone who has had actual involvement in arts.

"We stress the importance of the candidates' professional standing and leadership in the cultural sector."

The authority's chief executive must have 20 years' experience at the senior-executive level of a multifaceted organisation covering strategic development, financial planning and business modelling. He or she should also have experience in arts and culture, and be able to master a broad range of stakeholder relations in both the public and private sectors.

The authority had also received 16 applications for the post of executive director of performing arts policy, and 13 for executive director of museum policy, Sin said.

Priority would be given to getting these directors so that they would join the chief executive and the authority board in selecting the rest of the management team.

Thomas Tang Wing-hung, director of the Comics and Animation Federation, suggested the hub set aside space to set up production companies for his industry.

Tang Siu-wah, for the Literary Museum Initiative, said her group had gathered 500 signatures from writers and scholars backing a move to have a museum built at the hub.

Tang's group had advocated a place for literature in the "other arts and cultural facilities", for which 15,000 square metres was set aside.

Project director Augustine Ng Wah-keung told Tang to build up the proposal and it would be forwarded to the building consultants.
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Old September 14th, 2009, 12:42 PM   #686
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Focus on 'software' side to fostering arts
11 September 2009
SCMP

The West Kowloon Cultural District promises an art museum, theatres and other cultural and artistic "hardware", but what about the "software"?

Worried that Hong Kong neglects less visible forces underpinning the arts, the Home Affairs Bureau has already planned Creative October, featuring more than 40 programmes with 200 activities, to get things moving.

And now the government, with Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen having identified culture and the arts as one of six economic pillars, has set up a group to drive the project forwards.

A committee aims to break down the walls between government departments and co-ordinate initiatives to nurture cultural "software" and creative industries.

The Steering Committee on Culture and Creativity will be co-chaired by Permanent Secretary for Home Affairs Carrie Yau Tsang Ka-lai and Permanent Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development (Communications and Technology) Duncan Pescod.

Yau said establishing the committee was the result of public demand.

"The media and the cultural sectors constantly remind us not to forget about cultural software development and cultivation of audiences for the future arts hub," she said.

Departments and bureaus would be better able to foster cultural and creative industries when working together.

Other members on the committee come from the Education Bureau, which aims to boost arts education among youngsters; the Home Affairs Department, which will co-ordinate district events; the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, which is the government's main presenter of artistic and cultural events; and CreateHK, which promotes creative industries and administers the HK$300 million CreateSmart Initiative funding scheme.

Yau yesterday also pushed the Creative October campaign, which hopes to boost the city's cultural life. The Tourism Board and the government's overseas offices will help promote the campaign internationally.

She hoped that Creative October could be an annual event. Fending off criticism that it was too similar to the Arts Festival, Yau said that next month's event focused more on community and young artists, as well as the audience.

"We hope to promote art in our lives so that a family gathering could be more than just a dinner or going to karaoke," she said. "Attending an art event is also an option."

Art critic Oscar Ho Hing-kay welcomed the formation of the new committee but said such measures had yet to solve the core issues. Ho said deeper discussion was needed.

"Taiwan is selling culture. Singapore is also selling culture. So culturally what makes us outstanding?" he asked.

Ho said that defining Hong Kong's cultural character was essential in the long run. "They can't keep using cliches like East meeting West," he said. "East meets West in Shanghai, and also in Singapore."

Asia Cultural Co-operation Forum cultural leaders from the region exchange views on cultural policies and developments in culture and the arts

October Contemporary city-wide exhibitions of contemporary visual arts

Community arts festivals street performances of dance and drama in the city's 18 districts

Silk Road Arts Festival performances and exhibitions celebrating the history of the ancient trade route between Asia and Europe, presented by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department

Julius Caesar performed by more than 100 primary school students, and with the story moved to Bali, presented by Shakespeare4All

Zampa Ufujishi Daiko Majestic Drums XIII Okinawa drum group Zampa Ufujishi Daiko's return to Hong Kong, presented by the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra

Architecture Is Art Festival Musical and stage performances, lectures and an exhibition, presented by Zuni Icosahedron.
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Old September 18th, 2009, 03:01 PM   #687
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HAB statement on cultural software investment
Friday, September 18, 2009
Government Press Release

In response to media enquiries, a Home Affairs Bureau spokesman said today (September 18) the Government invests heavily in strengthening cultural software.

"We invest no less than $880 million directly into arts groups and programmes, of which close to $220 million is allocated to the nine flagship performing companies per year," the spokesman said.

"To encourage the flagship companies to engage in more outreach and outbound activities, on top of their baseline allocation, they are allocated an additional $45 million a year for 2008/09 and 2009/10. The $45 million extra allocation is one-off in nature. In accordance with the normal cycle for allocating extra resources to sustain past initiatives, whether similar allocation is forthcoming will not be known until later in the year.

"Funding the flagships is only one of the many means to build our cultural software. We are also committed to building the capacity of our performing arts companies, including the small and budding groups; building a wider audience base; targeting young people especially, and strengthening arts education and manpower training."
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Old October 14th, 2009, 05:05 AM   #688
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Cultural district must be able to interact with diverse community
1 October 2009
South China Morning Post

There is a sign seen in a Shanghai hotel, which reads, "Please leave your values at the front desk."

With further consultation about to commence on development of West Kowloon Cultural District, it may be helpful to look at how values informed consultative processes elsewhere and determined their outcomes. Decisions were made, deferred and overturned, then their loss nostalgically grieved over. More consultative groups were formed and reformed, individual taxpayer and collective agendas addressed and readdressed.

Iconic plans fell among thorns, were too shallowly rooted, or could not gather adequate life-giving civic and communal support and when the projects began they drew new waves of protest.

The examples might have been taken from London, New York or Sydney. Given quite different weights of history, the parallels could hardly resonate with the specific chronology of West Kowloon Cultural District, yet drawing parallels at a broader level, perhaps, exemplifies some of the confines and limits to which consultative processes are subject, in particular, where multiple stakeholders are drawn in.

Despite the importance of plans, design and architecture for the cultural district, what matters are not the apprehensions of making a wrong choice of architect, nor of understandable anxieties in making inappropriate aesthetic choices over buildings, but issues of focus, form, and functionality. These need to be thoroughly aired, addressed and readdressed through open discussion, inclusive of all concerned parties where differing or ambivalent views are respected and the ramifications of decisions taken are made known at an early stage.

Leaving one's baggage at the front desk is one thing, leaving one's values quite another.

The values and dynamic relationships we invest in a sustainable cultural district matter, if it is to become integral to all our lives. Constructive engagement of the community, moving from consultation to collaboration, can work.

An integrated cultural district is just that, one integrated in every sense, through art-form proximity, symbiotic local and international activity, commercial and residential development, and by interacting with a diverse community, the convert, the consensual and the sceptic.

Kevin Thompson, director, Academy for Performing Arts
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Old October 28th, 2009, 05:32 PM   #689
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Old November 2nd, 2009, 04:12 PM   #690
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Architect vows to integrate arts hub with Pearl River Delta
2 November 2009
South China Morning Post

Internationally renowned Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, who set up his second Asia office in Hong Kong last month, has vowed to integrate the arts hub with the Pearl River Delta.

Out of the public eye since his company was selected as one of the three potential master planners for the West Kowloon Cultural District in July, Koolhaas said he would be seen in Hong Kong constantly in the next year.

"We will engage the local community by being here," he said, bringing his partner and staff heading the Beijing and Hong Kong offices to an interview to show the firm's connections and influence in the region.

His company, Office for Metropolitan Architecture, set up an office in Beijing when it won the design competition for the China Central Television headquarters and had shown the same commitment to Hong Kong. The new office in Central will employ about 25 architects and urban planners.

David Gianotten, head of the Hong Kong office, said the strategy allowed the company to immerse itself in the local culture and establish connections with local artists.

Koolhaas' partner and head of the Beijing office, Ole Scheeren, said: "One really important part of the Beijing experience is that we took the decision to actually be there for a very important project. We have to live with it, not only work on it."

The arts hub is the company's first project for Hong Kong, and the other contenders are Rocco Yim Sen-kee and Lord Foster.

In what Scheeren described as an "interesting coincidence", the company has just won the design competition for the Shenzhen Crystal Island in Futian , site of the second station after West Kowloon on the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, which terminates at the West Kowloon arts hub.

The Shenzhen project will become a focal point for the city's creative industries and will comprise a design village with 20 hectares of open space. The design of the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, next to Crystal Island, was also Koolhaas' work.

He said the West Kowloon and Futian projects could "mutually support and strengthen each other in some ways", without giving details.

"The interesting thing is not so much that we are finding this region, but this region is finding us," he said.

Koolhaas began studying the Pearl River Delta region in 1994 when he was a professor at Harvard University, looking at how Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai , Dongguan and Macau interacted and how these cities could become a unique urban region in the 21st century.

"We realise the importance and influence of the Western world is diminishing. All kinds of forces are emerging and gaining importance here," Koolhaas said.

"In addition to serving the local needs, West Kowloon could provide an encounter for China, Indonesia and the Philippines {hellip} it would be extremely powerful if they were combined in an intelligent manner."
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Old November 11th, 2009, 03:07 PM   #691
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Push for local flavour at arts hub
9 November 2009
SCMP

Hong Kong's unique characteristics and traditional Chinese art forms should be emphasised in both the design and content of the future West Kowloon Cultural District, the second public forum on the arts hub heard yesterday.

More than 200 people attended the forum at the Hong Kong Arts Centre, where representatives of the three planning teams - Foster + Partners, the Office for Metropolitan Architecture and Rocco Design Architects - discussed and debated proposals for the arts hub.

Colin Ward of Foster + Partners stressed the importance of making the arts hub a truly Hong Kong project, while audience member Douglas White, a marketing executive, asked how the city's street cafes or dai pai dong and wet markets could be preserved or presented. Rocco Yim Sen-kee of Rocco Design Architects pointed out that one need not focus only on the past, but should also look to the future when highlighting the uniqueness of the city.

A number of audience members suggested an area dedicated to traditional art forms such as dough figure sculpturing and martial arts.

Representatives of the Literary Museum Initiative, which has been pressing for a literature museum, asked why only a few people from the city's literary scene had been included in the list of stakeholders.

The consultation panel chairman, Stephen Cheung Yan-leung, welcomed the heated discussion and promised to reflect the views to the board of the authority.

The third public forum will be held at Tai Po Civic Centre on December 6.

Fleurs des Lettres, suggested a focus group meeting with local writers and literature critics - a proposal that found wide support in the audience.
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Old November 12th, 2009, 05:44 PM   #692
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Old November 22nd, 2009, 06:55 PM   #693
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Hong Kong's artistic quest to build a good audience relationship
8 November 2009
SCMP

As part of a co-ordinated, three-pronged approach to strengthen arts and cultural development - and to underline the importance of community engagement and participation - the chief executive's policy address focused, in part, on building an audience.

However, there is perhaps no such thing as an audience - only audiences. Each is different. Each organisation has to find its own approach to developing its audience.

Yet a co-ordinated approach is necessary if we are to develop audiences for the West Kowloon Cultural District, and we must recognise the commonalities in embracing the broad themes of audience development. This often requires looking at a range of variables, from programming, ticket pricing and customer care, to barriers to attendance, and audience values and motivation. But there are also opportunities for fresh partnerships, to focus on new, younger and more diverse audiences.

Any committed approach will invariably involve producing distinctive programmes, and ensuring that new audiences return again and again.

The American Symphony Orchestra, for example, has constructed a thematically organised series of concept programmes that relate music to trends in the visual arts or to broader historical contexts. Performances take place "in concert" with exhibitions in museums, art galleries and libraries.

Audience-building is like any kind of artistic quest, it is about a sense of discovery, and producing attractive and adventurous programmes.

It may involve seeking out the unknown, untried and the seldom seen, heard or experienced, or being open to the remarkable and inspiring.

As we seek ever more innovative ways to build relationships with our audiences, to increase participation and enhance the richness of the arts and cultural potential in Hong Kong, we must focus on education, placing audiences uppermost in our planning, and the nature of the relationship with our audiences over time.

These are at the very heart of audience development.

Kevin Thompson, director, HK Academy for Performing Arts
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Old November 24th, 2009, 07:00 PM   #694
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Government ignores advice to set up museums board
14 November 2009
South China Morning Post

The government is unlikely to take its advisers' recommendations to set up a statutory board that will take over management of public museums from bureaucrats and overhaul museums policy.

Secretary for Home Affairs Tsang Tak-sing told lawmakers at the home affairs panel yesterday that establishing an independent board would be a big move that needed careful consideration.

Rather than present a blueprint for the development of public museums as Legco had requested, Tsang instead put forward more immediate measures, such as inviting guest curators, arranging curator internships and outreach educational activities, and collaborating with business and community groups in organising exhibitions.

"A statutory museums board would impact on the mode of operations, human resources, financial arrangements, ownership rights of collections and curatorship," Tsang said. He would announce a decision on whether to set up the board in three months, he said.

The panel's vice-chairwoman, Tanya Chan, said Tsang's remarks were disappointing and, if a statutory board were not adopted, he would have to explain why.

The museums board was recommended by two different groups of advisers in 2000 and 2007 during reviews of the city's cultural policy.The body would encourage flexibility and creativity, the advisers said.

It would be led by professionals, draw up a research-based development strategy and allocate resources among museums, with more aggressive marketing to raise patronage.

A new museums law would inspire public confidence in overall museums management, attract corporate donations and promote curatorial independence, the advisers said.

At present, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department manages 14 museums.

The government has been accused of being inflexible and mismanaging collections in recent years.

In August, the department admitted that 21 items linked to Republic of China founder Sun Yat-sen had been missing for three years from its storage area.

In February, film star Jackie Chan spoke of his frustrations over decade-long talks with the government on a new museum to house his collections of historic wooden houses.

Andrew Lam Siu-lo, a member of the committee on museums that proposed the board idea, said the existing scene lacked vibrancy and character, and there was no mechanism to deal with private donations. "There is an absolute need for the board, and to co-ordinate operations between these museums and the future flagship in West Kowloon so that they don't overlap," said Lam, also a member of the board for the arts hub project.
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Old November 26th, 2009, 04:57 PM   #695
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Opinion : Keep arts hub from bureaucrats until authority has strong leader
26 November 2009
South China Morning Post

Architects have an adage: for a great building, get a great client.

Your report on the public forum regarding the West Kowloon Cultural District ("Push for local flavour at arts hub", November 9) makes me wonder what ran through the minds of the representatives of the renowned design firms as they received input regarding facilities for dough-figure sculpturing. That sort of input might be helpful someday, but not when the most fundamental issues remain unresolved.

At this point, West Kowloon needs something akin to a development team, capable of producing a strong concept for the software and, from that, a clear brief to guide design of the hardware. That effort should be largely top-down, where the "top" comprises experienced and expert professionals from key fields, directed by a talented leader.

The government seemed to acknowledge this in creating the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, the great client that would work on our behalf.

Yet five months after the authority's first senior hire resigned after nine days on the job, there has been little in the news about the authority's hiring the needed leadership and talent.

The Central waterfront is equally in need of a strong, independent authority. I was disappointed to read that Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor again sidestepped suggestions to study restoring Queen's Pier to its original location ("Group wants Edinburgh Place to be given monument status", November 11), by citing the public's preference for one of the two mediocre schemes developed by her department. A number of professional groups have put far better concepts on the table, but those would require effort and compromise. The Planning Department would apparently prefer to hunker down behind its dubious public surveys.

In these two sites, the government holds a pair of extraordinary raw diamonds. It should lock them away from its bureaucrats until the authority it has empowered - our great client - has hired a strong leader who, in turn, has recruited diamond-cutters who possess the vision and skills to produce crown jewels our city can be unreservedly proud to claim.

Dick Groves, Wan Chai
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Old November 27th, 2009, 05:33 PM   #696
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Old December 6th, 2009, 07:31 PM   #697
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Rail link station 'faces year's delay'
5 December 2009
South China Morning Post

There will be a one-year delay in building the station for the cross-border express rail link if the number of shipping berths in West Kowloon is cut back as the chief secretary has requested, lawmakers were told yesterday.

The berths are for barges to carry away soil excavated for the railway, which will terminate at West Kowloon. Last week Henry Tang Ying-yen asked the Highways Department to scale the planned five berths back to two, to lessen their intrusion into the new cultural district's waterfront promenade. Five berths will occupy one hectare, and 1,000 metres of the arts hub's waterfront.

In a Legislative Council meeting yesterday, Highways Department director Wai Chi-sing told lawmakers that the work schedule of the station would be delayed by a year if only two berths were available.

About one-third of the 40-hectare arts hub site, or 14 hectares, will be used as a construction site and barging area for the railway station. These areas will be returned to the authority in stages from 2012 to 2014, a year before the West Kowloon Cultural District is due to open.

Lawmakers monitoring the arts hub project said they were worried the rail works might interrupt or delay its completion.

Dr Raymond Ho Chung-tai, who represents engineers in Legco, said: "Problems could arise when two large-scale projects are happening on the same site at the same time. Proper co-ordination is necessary. Would one of them be given a higher priority?"

Lee Wing-tat of the Democratic Party said lawmakers had not been informed of the full picture. "Would the rail station construction delay the arts hub project? Would the construction limit the planning of the arts hub?"

Patrick Lau Sau-shing, who represents architects, said uncertainty over the rail project could hinder the architects designing the arts hub. He urged the government to explain how the arts hub would be affected.

The occupation of the arts hub site by builders would also prevent the area from holding arts and cultural-related activities during the construction period.

Both projects are expected to be completed in 2015.

The chairman of the authority's development committee, Ronald Arculli, said the committee understood the complications of handling two projects at the same time, but he said the rail station would be a benefit for the arts hub.

Deputy home affairs secretary Cathy Chu Man-ling, who is responsible for the West Kowloon Cultural District, said the government had kept architects informed about the progress of the rail station's construction.
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Old December 7th, 2009, 10:59 AM   #698
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Old December 15th, 2009, 08:12 AM   #699
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Old January 4th, 2010, 05:42 PM   #700
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Underpass link seen as vital to divert traffic
18 December 2009
South China Morning Post

The government has been warned that traffic conditions in Yau Tsim Mong district will worsen if it fails to push ahead with a proposed vehicle underpass beneath Austin Road.

The work is seen as vital to divert traffic generated by the West Kowloon Cultural District and a high-speed rail line to Guangzhou which will have its terminus in West Kowloon.

In a final attempt to stop lawmakers from passing the HK$66.9 billion rail project today, experts from Professional Commons, a lobby group, accused the government of hiding crucial figures that showed the link's possible traffic impact on its neighbouring districts.

"Suppose all the government's road improvements works can be carried out, 11 junctions would still only have marginal capacity, while two would have no capacity left," Roland Taylor, an experienced engineer on MTR projects, said.

According to a government-commissioned transport impact study obtained by the group, a crucial part of the improvement works included an underpass for vehicles under Austin Road that would connect West Kowloon and Tsim Sha Tsui.

"If this underpass cannot be finished when the link opens in 2015, the road network will not even be marginally sustainable by 2031," said Paul Zimmerman, a member of the group. "But the government has not started doing a feasibility study."

The proposed underpass was not included in the HK$11.5 billion set aside for non-rail-line facilities.

An official from the Highways Department said, however, that they had already conducted a preliminary study and were satisfied the underpass was technically viable. He said it was not included in the plan because they did not yet know the design of the West Kowloon arts hub.

"Having big commercial centres in the hub would create a very different traffic volume from, say, like having a big piazza. We want to wait until the design draft is out to make a more accurate estimation."

Five years could be a bit tight for both consultation and construction of the underpass, given that many infrastructure projects - including the Central to Wan Chai bypass - have failed to be launched in over a decade.

It is highly likely, though, that Legco's Finance Committee will pass the funding of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong express link, as more than half of the 60 members have already expressed their support for the project.

Tsoi Yuen Tsuen villagers, whose homes will be razed to make way for the railway, conservationists and activists have vowed to mobilise more than 1,000 protesters today. They plan to surround the Legco building when the meeting begins at 3pm.

A group of students who began a vigil on Wednesday will continue walking around the building until the meeting starts.
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