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Old June 23rd, 2005, 08:58 AM   #61
hkskyline
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Cost may scupper canopy for culture hub
Developer 'won't have to build West Kowloon landmark if it's too expensive'
Polly Hui
28 April 2004
South China Morning Post

The construction of a giant canopy designed by architect Sir Norman Foster for the controversial West Kowloon cultural district may be scrapped if developers think it is too costly, a senior government official has revealed.

"Construction of the canopy does not necessarily have to go ahead. If everybody thinks it's too expensive, we will reconsider the whole approach," Kwan Pak-lam, a Territory Development Department project manager, told the Legislative Council's panel on planning, lands and works yesterday. Public opposition could also scupper the project.

Mr Kwan admitted after the meeting that the design and tendering of the $24 billion project to transform the area into a cultural hub with museums, theatres and walkways would have to begin from scratch should the canopy concept be discarded.

The remarks appeared to mark a change of stance from the government's previous insistence on building the canopy, despite mounting criticism of the design. The vast glassy canopy would cover more than half the 40-hectare site, sitting 30 storeys above it.

Construction of the structure was a mandatory requirement in the government's invitation for development proposals. But it has been criticised by engineers, architects and cultural groups as shockingly expensive to maintain.

Chief Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen added to the controversy when he cited the structure as one of the main factors behind the government's decision to entrust a single consortium to run the site for 30 years. Splitting the project under a single roof would be difficult, he said. But critics fear the precious site would end up as a cash-driven property project if it was controlled by just one developer.

Democrat panel member Wong Sing-chi questioned whether the government's apparent about-face was a result of behind-doors negotiations with developers.

"It makes us wonder whether officials have suddenly changed their minds because the developers told them it would be too costly to build the canopy," he said.

Liberal Party chairman James Tien Pei-chun called for more transparency. He said the government should be able to run the cultural facilities on its own because of its improved financial condition. The remaining land on the site should be retained for sale in coming years when prices went up.

A motion put forward by independent legislator Albert Chan Wai-yip opposing the proposed method of operating the project was passed unanimously. The panel members also said it was outrageous that the project did not require Legco approval because it was not defined as public works.

Panel member Abraham Razack said: "With the money spent on the project, we could build hundreds and hundreds of museums. I hope the government can see that the West Kowloon site is the best remaining site we can find in Hong Kong and such valuable resources should not be wasted."

Permanent Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor denied there had been closed-door negotiations between her staff and developers.

Criticism of the project has pushed back the deadline for submission of development proposals to June 19. A public consultation on the proposals is due to be held early next year and construction is to be completed in stages from 2010.
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Old June 23rd, 2005, 04:53 PM   #62
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How to save Hong Kong's culture
29 April 2004
South China Morning Post

Three opinion surveys on the West Kowloon cultural district asked nearly identical questions, but failed to address the two most critical issues. Polls by the Centre for Cultural Policy Research at Hong Kong University, the Hong Kong Arts Development Council and the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce all asked detailed questions about the giant canopy, the "one developer" solution and the management of venues.

They neglected to ask if a majority of Hong Kong's cultural venues should be located in one new area, or are they better spread throughout the harbour district, to enhance existing areas? Further, how do we change the role and organisation of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, optimise resource allocation for arts and culture, and improve the management of venues?

In its current form, the West Kowloon project is the result of three questionable decisions: clustering all venues in one new area; adding a dramatic but expensive canopy (which, we now learn, may be scrapped if developers think it is too costly); and paying one developer for the construction and management of the venues, with adjacent land zoned for residential and retail use.

The clustering decision was based on the regeneration of cities in Britain, where a rethink of arts, culture, hotel, retail and entertainment facilities helped attract more tourists.

Hong Kong already has its cluster - the harbour district, which is the area between the Eastern Harbour Crossing and Western Harbour Tunnel. It has 90 per cent of all arts, cultural, entertainment, financial and the main commercial facilities, and has never had a problem attracting tourists. The only Hong Kong-specific "clustering" issue is to provide quality food and beverage facilities within five minutes of a venue. The solution is better pedestrian mobility and accessibility, with the market taking care of the rest.

The only proponents of the West Kowloon cultural district are the bureaucrats who pushed it; developers keen on high-value land; consultants and architects paid to work on the plans; and art groups desperate to get away from the Leisure and Cultural Services Department.

The project will not disappear, and the question, therefore, is how to ensure a successful urban plan for West Kowloon.

The first option is to call for a strategic master plan for a world-class harbour district as a whole, including West Kowloon, which sets a direction for land use and identifies the optimal distribution of venues, facilities, property development and transport infrastructure, based on economic, social and environmental aspirations for Hong Kong.

The next best option would be for West Kowloon to proceed as a "commercial performance district" - a comprehensive development area with a dramatic roof or other landmark feature, which includes commercial venues such as sports arenas, convention centres, dance halls, cinemas, theatres and museums - entirely under the command of the developer with no cultural policy control management. With the venues operated on market demand, the value of West Kowloon will increase significantly. The winning developer would pay a higher land premium, and additional funds could then be allocated to culture and arts development in Hong Kong as a whole.

More important, the energy now being spent on the West Kowloon cultural district could instead be focused on the real debate needed in Hong Kong's culture and arts: resource allocation and management, privatisation of existing venues and the role of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. West Kowloon as a cultural district will not resolve these issues.

Paul Zimmerman is executive director of MF Jebsen International, principal of The Experience Group, a policy and strategy consultancy, and chief co-ordinator of Designing Hong Kong Harbour District.
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Old June 23rd, 2005, 05:14 PM   #63
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Umm... so now the canopy, the one thing that makes this project worthwhile, is now looking to be slashed to cut costs?

... hk you sure this thing's going to get built soon? These articles you've been posting all seem to take a very ominous tone.
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Old June 23rd, 2005, 11:20 PM   #64
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheese Mmmmmmmmmmmm
Umm... so now the canopy, the one thing that makes this project worthwhile, is now looking to be slashed to cut costs?

... hk you sure this thing's going to get built soon? These articles you've been posting all seem to take a very ominous tone.
I'm in the midst of reconstructing this thread after it was deleted a while back. A lot of the news is doom and gloom, but what's certain is that Foster's canopy is the landmark of this whole development, and it is highly unlikely it will be axed.

Don't lose sight of Lord Foster's vision
29 April 2004
South China Morning Post

When Lord Foster's architectural firm was awarded the top prize in the competition to design the West Kowloon cultural district two years ago, the government was full of praise for the canopy and the vision it represented. Echoing the words of the international panel assembled to assess plans from all over the world, the then secretary for planning and lands, John Tsang Chun-wah, said the development would be "an urban miracle".

As for feasibility and cost, there was little to indicate the government considered either would present an obstacle. The plan to award the entire 40-hectare site to one developer was predicated on the need to underwrite the cost of the project, which provides for substantial public space and a number of cultural facilities as well as the dramatic canopy. In return, the winning bidder would be able to sell and manage commercial space in the district and receive income from management of the cultural facilities. It is a formula that is increasingly under fire - and official hints dropped on Monday that the government might not require the canopy to be built were cause for concern. The government clarified last night that its intentions have not changed.

The glass and metal canopy was always going to be expensive to build and maintain - as were the green spaces, galleries and performance venues. Yet the jury found that it was "well within the ambit of known technology and experience". And the idea behind handing construction and management of the area over to private developers was to subsidise the public spaces. When the rooftop goes, height limits and other cultural facilities in the plan become vulnerable to change. Without the undulating covering that the jury said "would create an unmistakable landmark for Hong Kong", it is also difficult to see how the area will retain any sense of coherence - or make the architectural statement it was meant to.

If financial viability is a concern, permission might be given to turn the 10,000 seat performance venue into a much-needed 50,000-seat stadium that could fit under the canopy and generate income, as suggested by Paul Zimmerman, of Designing Hong Kong Harbour District. Other avenues should be pursued to make the economics of the canopy work before the plan's one distinguishing feature is eliminated.

With prime real estate such as the West Kowloon reclamation, the danger has always been that greed would trump civic interests. The government must reassure the public by putting in place mechanisms to guarantee this will not happen. For West Kowloon to be a success, the cultural facilities need to be well-built and well-managed.

Removing the canopy requirement, however, would only open the door to skyrocketing height limits and plot ratios. It will also allow smaller developers who have complained about being locked out of the bidding process to lobby for the site to be carved up into parcels. Rising real estate values, especially for high-end flats that could be built on the site, guarantee that the private interest would be great - and developers would seek to maximise profits. Cultural facilities and open space would hardly remain priorities.

The government is expected to put short-listed submissions on display early next year for public review. It also says it will take the comments into account before making the final decision. Chief Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's promises that this "is not another property development project" and that the arts will not play second fiddle must be kept. If the final plans favour commercial development over the arts and leisure components - or if they compromise the sweeping Foster-designed canopy - they should be rejected in favour of a broad consultation on how to use the land. Alternatives could include a vast waterfront park.

West Kowloon represents one of the last remaining opportunities to build something for the public on the harbour. It should not be wasted.
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Old June 23rd, 2005, 11:24 PM   #65
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Giant canopy for cultural hub will still be built but project backers must be aware of and assess the costs, an official says
Martin Wong
29 April 2004
South China Morning Post

The giant canopy for the controversial West Kowloon cultural district remains a central design component of the project, the government insisted last night - a day after a senior official said it would be scrapped if developers found it too expensive.

However, the government also acknowledged the backers of the project would have to know "how much the canopy cost and to assess it in the overall financial scheme".

It added that at this stage it did not believe the technical or financial aspects of the Lord Foster-designed canopy would affect the viability of the project. "There is no change to the mandatory requirements set out in the invitation for proposals (IFP) for the West Kowloon Cultural District project," a government spokesman said.

On Tuesday however, Kwan Pak-lam, a Territory Development Department project manager, told the Legislative Council's planning, lands and works panel that the glass canopy might not be built.

The canopy is designed to sit 30 storeys above the site, covering more than half the 40-hectare area.

"Construction of the canopy does not necessarily have to go ahead. If everybody thinks it's too expensive, we will reconsider the whole approach," Mr Kam said during the meeting.

Yesterday, a government spokesman insisted the canopy would still be constructed.

"We remain of the view that there are no particular design problems with the canopy. Proponents are required to carry out technical studies to address special design considerations and a maintenance plan for the canopy detailing the arrangements for the cleaning, maintenance and repair."

The spokesman stressed that apart from extending the deadline for submissions by three months to June 19, there has been no significant changes to the fundamental requirements in the IFP since its launch in September last year.

"The IFP document requires proponents to submit detailed designs of the canopy and the cost related to its construction," he said.

"As stated in the important note of the IFP, proposals which fail to comply with any of the mandatory requirements will be treated as non-conforming proposals and will not be considered further." In response to heavy questioning from lawmakers over the project's lack of transparency and demands for a multi-package approach, he reiterated that the single package method was the best way forward and was in the wider public interests of Hong Kong.

"The government is committed to conducting the selection exercise in a fair and open manner. We have enlisted the assistance of the ICAC [Independent Commission Against Corruption] in drawing up the selection process. Any allegations that the government is entering deals with private developers are totally unfounded."
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Old June 24th, 2005, 07:27 AM   #66
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Belated plan for HK arts hub attacked

HONG KONG, April 29 (AFP) - Overhead the world's largest roof structure would undulate in a crystal ocean of perspex and glass, over a spanner-shaped spit of land reclaimed from Hong Kong's harbour.

Ahead, two glass domes would emerge from the harbourside like giant glinting egg halves enclosing an underground theatre and an events hall.

This space-age vision of the future is architect Sir Norman Foster's winning proposal for Hong Kong's West Kowloon Cultural District, a 40-hectare arts and entertainment development hoped to transform the city's image as a cultural wasteland.

There is just one problem, however: Few think this grand vision will get off the ground.

Critics of the former British colony's largest infrastructural project in a generation say a lack of community input, political manoeuvring and poor planning will stall the project or render it a huge white elephant.

"The proposal is inefficient and inadequate," said Paul Zimmerman, head of Designing Hong Kong Harbour District, an advocacy group pushing for better planning for the foreshore of Hong Kong's famous but abused Victoria Harbour.

"There are big questions not only about whether or not it will be culturally feasible, but whether it will be commercially viable," he said.

When the project was announced last year it was supposed to answer long-held concerns that the city has no precinct where the public can gather to indulge in the arts, sports or just to interact.

Parks are hopelessly too small for all of the city's 6.8 million residents and within the dense urban neighbourhoods there is precious little green space.

The West Kowloon Cultural District was to address all those problems with a sports centre, parkland and arts centre. The huge roof would literally be its crowning glory, an architectural wonder that would draw visitors from all over the world.

But before Foster's company was announced as the winner of a competition to design the masterplan for the project, the critics were out.

Topping the list of concerns is the government's decision that the project should be built and run entirely by the private-sector.

In contrast to previous projects of its size, when different parts of the work were contracted out to different firms, the entire cultural centre has been offered out to a single developer.

The winning bid, to be decided in June, will build the district and operate it until a long-term management company can be found to take over its day to day running.

"Too few people who would have a stake in this have been drawn into its planning," explained Ng Mee-kan, professor of architecture at Hong Kong University and a senior member of Citizen Envisioning @ Harbour, another harbour lobby group.

"This is supposed to be a cultural centre for the community -- what do private developers know about the cultural needs of a community?

"Huge sectors of the community were not included in the planning of this site -- people who it is supposed to be there for."

Ng cautions that a private developer would be at liberty to alter the design without prior approval.

"We could even get to the stage where the developer, as a private landlord, would stop people using the facilities, not allow them to walk on the grass or even charge them to enter," she said.

Although the government says it did consult arts and cultural organisations, critics complain it simply asked them what sort of facilities they thought were needed. Unsurprisingly they said they needed performance space, public areas, retail and food outlets.

"It's not like those are things exclusively wanted by cultural groups," said Zimmerman. "It should have been obvious that those are what were needed in terms of facilities, but in terms of design and layout, architects and smaller developers should have been consulted."

Not least, says May Fung of the Hong Kong Institute of Contemporary Arts, because there is some concern that nobody in Hong Kong will be able to build the huge roof.

"We haven't seen a single proposal for its construction," said Fung, spokeswoman for the University of Hong Kong-affiliated architectural concern group.

"We have even heard some companies complain that the roof would be impossible to build -- the engineering would be far too expensive to make it viable."

Such is the institute's concerns that it has launched its own consultation process of the city architects, centre managers and designers for their opinions of what should be done.

"If the government won't do it, then we will," said Fung.

With anger still raging over the government's heavy-handed crushing of a campaign to prevent further reclamation of the harbour near the downtown district, critics fear the West Kowloon project will be another fait accompli.

Zimmerman believes officials were expecting a fight and put the project under the control of the city's second-most senior politician, Chief Secretary Donald Tsang.

"That way, they can bypass the usual paperwork and layers of approval and get decisions made straight away. It was set up deliberately like that," said Zimmerman.

It could still get tangled in bureaucratic knots, however. The plans must be approved by the city's Town Planning Board, which assesses all development proposals.

Once considered a stooge of the government, recent criticism of it has stung its members who have begun unexpectedly flexing their muscles in ways once not expected of them.

Only last week it turned down a proposal by powerful property tycoon Gordon Wu to build a huge twin-tower hotel project in a run-down part of the Wan Chai district on grounds construction would disrupt local residents.

"I think the government could be surprised by the planning board yet," said Ng.
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Old June 25th, 2005, 12:27 PM   #67
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May i clarify what exactly is the cost of this project?

HK$24Billion right?
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Old June 25th, 2005, 10:16 PM   #68
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gid
May i clarify what exactly is the cost of this project?

HK$24Billion right?
Yes, the preliminary estimate is around HK$24 billion, although the cost of the canopy is still not very certain.
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Old June 27th, 2005, 02:59 PM   #69
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how much is in the us dollar???
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Old June 27th, 2005, 04:35 PM   #70
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Quote:
Originally Posted by michal1982
how much is in the us dollar???
Roughly US$3 billion
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Old June 27th, 2005, 04:56 PM   #71
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that's not bad! please let's start construction this!!!
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Old July 6th, 2005, 08:48 AM   #72
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West Kowloon arts hub 'worth $36b'
The cultural district should be profitable, according to a first estimate of the project's value when built
Chloe Lai
11 May 2004
South China Morning Post

Once it is built, the West Kowloon cultural district will have a market value of $36.4 billion, according to the first study of the project's financial prospects.

The study, conducted by the University of Hong Kong for the Arts Development Council, estimated the 40-hectare waterfront site itself was worth $24.6 billion. Offices, shopping centres and apartment buildings would have a commercial value of $11.8 billion. The project should be financially viable, it concluded.

While cultural facilities, such as museums and theatres, would cost $13.2 billion to build, they were not given a commercial value in the study because they are expected to lose money.

This is the first public estimate of the commercial value of the project. The government has never released any financial data on the planned cultural district.

Darwin Chen Tat-man, chairman of the Arts Development Council, said the figures were important in enabling the public to judge the merits of developers' proposals for the project.

"Now we have something to rely on when looking into those proposals in detail," he said.

Wong Kwok-chung, an associate professor of real estate and construction at the University of Hong Kong, said the estimates were based on a set of assumptions including a very low density level of building construction.

"If the development density goes up, the land will be [more valuable]," he said. The study was conducted by Dr Wong and architect Desmond Hui Cheuk-kuen.

In assessing incomes from commercial properties, the study concluded apartments at the prime sites would be worth $7,000 per sq ft, and monthly rent in shopping centres there would average $35 per sq ft.

Dr Wong said the project should be financially feasible.

He said a quasi-commercial principle should be adopted in managing the area's theatres and other cultural facilities, but with strict government guidelines on ticket pricing.

"Otherwise, the tickets will be too expensive for the public," he said. The cultural facilities could yield $9 million a year in profit, he said.

A single consortium will be responsible for the planning, development and management of the area for 30 years. But small developers fear they will be excluded from competing on the project. Lawmakers and non-governmental organisations have attacked authorities for ceding the last large piece of harbourfront land to property developers.
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Old July 6th, 2005, 08:49 AM   #73
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West Kowloon split will see delays: Suen
Paris Lord
13 May 2004
Hong Kong Standard

The government has again ruled out splitting the West Kowloon cultural district development into smaller projects because it would lead to "serious delays".

Critics have argued that awarding the controversial project to a single consortium shuts out smaller developers, and would mean the government could lose control of the 40-hectare waterfront development.

Speaking in the Legislative Council yesterday, Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands Michael Suen rejected calls from legislator Lau Ping-cheung to consider breaking up the development to allow more than one consortium to become involved, thereby creating more jobs.

The government conceived the development as a cultural, entertainment, arts and commercial project to be designed, built and operated by the private sector, Suen said.

"Dividing the project into smaller packages and inviting tenders would first require the government to draw up a master layout plan based on uncertain assumptions of what would be commercially viable."

This would result in the government designing the district's canopy, a moving walkway and other infrastructure features "without knowing how they would interface with the design of buildings in the district," Suen said.

"Conducting multiple tender exercises would also leave us with the extremely difficult task of drawing up multiple sets of complex interlocking land leases, which may lead us into costly litigation in future."

He later said: "The government is satisfied that dividing the project into multiple packages is an undesirable way of implementing it. The result would simply be a cacophony of separate facilities and serious delay for them to come into operation, which will risk our objective of creating a new architectural icon."

Suen said about 500 jobs could be created during construction but the government could not be sure if the numbers would fluctuate.

As staff numbers depend on the final design and would be decided by the developer, "it is difficult at this stage . . . to ensure that the number of professional jobs . . . will match the original estimate," he said.

Construction is scheduled to be started by April 2006, with core facilities open to the public in phases, starting from the end of 2009.
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Old July 6th, 2005, 12:14 PM   #74
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I think this project is too big, even for Hongkong.
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Old July 6th, 2005, 04:29 PM   #75
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that is great project should be realase! that is not too much they just want to make own buisnes on it!!
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Old July 12th, 2005, 05:20 AM   #76
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any news???
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Old July 22nd, 2005, 12:37 AM   #77
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Asia's Futuristic And Artistic Hub
Lyndall Crisp
15 May 2004
Australian Financial Review

The scale is mindboggling: about 40 hectares of prime land looking across Victoria Harbour towards the awesome Hong Kong skyline.

The West Kowloon Cultural District is part of the 340-hectare site that was almost entirely under water before it was reclaimed, encompassing a long-established vehicle ferry pier and causing a typhoon shelter to be relocated.

When it's finished, probably by 2009, the cultural centre will be the biggest in Asia with three theatres, a cluster of museums, art exhibition centre, outdoor water amphitheatre, restaurants, shops and piazzas.

In 2002 the Hong Kong government staged a conceptual design competition which attracted 161 entries, whittled down to five finalists. The winner was the British firm, Foster and Partners, which is no stranger to the area. Sir Norman Foster designed the Chek Lap Kok airport and the landmark Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank which dominates the Hong Kong CBD skyline.

His master plan for the cultural centre an undulating canopy, 114 metres at its highest point, which is open, translucent or opaque in different parts of a grid allows for any configuration of buildings, walkways and parks below. With vehicles banned above ground, the venues will be linked by automated people movers.

The search is now on for development proposals which will cover the planning, design, financing, construction, operation, maintenance, management, marketing and promotion of the new district in one package.

For the sake of continuity, it was decided not to break the development up into smaller projects.

The deadline for submissions was to be March 19, but interest in the development is so great that it has been pushed back to June 19.

The assistant director (performing arts) of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, Agnes Tang , says the successful party will have management of the cultural facility for 30 years and a land grant for 50 years.

The theatre complex must have three theatres with 200, 800 and 400 seats; a performance centre with 10,000 seats; four museums covering at least 75,000 sq m; an exhibition space covering 10,000 sq m; and 20 hectares of landscaped greenery for public use.

"What we hope to achieve are facilities that compliment all the existing facilities," Tang says. "For instance, we already have a museum of history so we'll be looking for something else. And the Hong Kong Colosseum, which seats 12,000, is always fully booked."

Theatre, opera, dance and music play a big part in the Asian tradition. It is a familiar activity at every level of society, hence the huge numbers that attend performances of both local and international artists.

Hong Kong has long been a favourite cultural destination in the region, and with mainland Chinese now able to visit independently as opposed to groups only its facilities are bursting at the seams.

In 2003, more than 1.5 million people saw 4060 live performances, and more than 4.6 million visited 104 exhibitions.

"We have requests for theatres that can be used for long commercial runs which are not provided in Hong Hong," Tang says. "Overseas events organisers frequently complain that they cannot find a suitable venue for their performance so we reckoned there was a gap. We got the message that they could do better if they had more seats.

"The Cultural Centre is very, very fully utilised . . . although we do allow long bookings for about 70 to 80 days, others feel this is not enough for a commercial run."

Proponents will have to come up with not only a design, but a financial plan outlining how they would run the district which will also include commercial and residential towers and hotels.

"They have to present a scenario to demonstrate that they're competent to run the whole area," Tang says. "We have no preconceived idea of how it should be run.

"This will transform the look of the cultural scene in Hong Kong. I believe this is the first time it's been attempted in Asia."

So far, 11 local and overseas consortiums have flagged interest in submitting development plans. The Hong Kong government's invitation for proposals is posted on www.hplb.gov.hk/ and proponents can also submit questions to be answered.

"It's the first time we've attempted this, so everyone is being very careful," Tang says. "We have to ensure this will contribute to the long-term cultural development and also that it's a fair and open process so people won't see it as government bias to one party or another."

A veteran of 20 years working in the arts, Tang says that, since several venues were built in 1987, 1989 and 2000, attendances have doubled.

"Tourists used to come from the West, now a lot come from the mainland. We know that there will be groups of tourists from Taiwan and other parts of Asia just to see a particular event if they think it's worth it. We want to build on that. There's a lot of potential there.

"We want to build a landmark along the waterfront so people will come to look at the building and see what is inside. People want to look at the harbour and the lights from this huge coastline facing the most beautiful part of Hong Kong. There will be a lot of promenading.

"Tourists won't come to Hong Kong just for the food and the shopping."
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Old July 22nd, 2005, 10:10 PM   #78
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Originally Posted by hkskyline
...When it's finished, probably by 2009...
I'll believe that if I see the backhoes move in sometime by the end of the year.
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Old July 23rd, 2005, 04:59 AM   #79
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Conductor makes overture for funds
The new Philharmonic artistic director pleads for a home for the orchestra

Oliver Chou
19 May 2004
South China Morning Post

The new artistic director of Hong Kong's flagship orchestra is horrified the city lacks adequate performance venues. And despite record funding this year, he is appealing for resources to expand the Philharmonic.

Edo de Waart said: "It is to my horror to find what [an] unbelievable problem of venues [there] is in Hong Kong, with 61/2 million people and a couple of halls constantly in demand for all kinds of things."

"To build a cultural centre without a concert hall is, to put it mildly, a mistake," said the 62-year old Dutch maestro.

Addressing a news conference on the 71st floor of Two IFC, he expressed the hope that a proposed cultural complex in West Kowloon would offer the Philharmonic a home - and a music hall big enough to stage performances of works such as the symphonies of Gustav Mahler.

De Waart has plans to perform Mahler's symphonic cycle in 2011 which would commemorate the centenary of the Austrian composer's death.

A repertoire of bigger works would require expanding the orchestra's existing roster of 89 players, he said.

Chan Wing-wah, chairman of the orchestra's artistic advisory committee, said: "We do intend to enlarge the orchestra because a shortage of players would mean depriving music lovers of large orchestral works."

For the 2004-2005 season, de Waart has used the orchestra's record $95 million budget to put together a series of themed concerts.

Two of Mahler's nine symphonies are included - the First will feature in de Waart's debut concert in October and the Fifth in the season's closing concert in July 2005.

De Waart will also conduct a concert version of the Richard Strauss opera Salome that will be the biggest production of his first season.

The season will feature international artists such as violinists Joshua Bell and Sarah Chang, and works commissioned from Chinese composers.
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Old July 24th, 2005, 09:23 AM   #80
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Cultural canopy will be raised, vows Suen
Matthew Lee
20 May 2004
Hong Kong Standard

A protective canopy must be included in the construction of the West Kowloon Cultural District, the government has confirmed.

Legislator Wong Sing-chi claimed last month an official at the Territory Development Department had said the future of the canopy would depend on how much it would cost to build.

However, Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands Michael Suen repeatedly denied yesterday that the government would consider omitting the canopy from plans for the massive HK$24 billion project if it were to prove too costly.

The mega project, which will cover an area the size of 50 football pitches, will stretch from Canton Road in the east to Austin Road in the north and will be built on reclaimed land.

It will house a theatre, art performance hall, four museums, art development centres and four open areas.

The project is due for completion by March 2010.

Fifty-five per cent of the 20-hectare district will be covered by the protective canopy and there will be a 2.3-kilometre long harbour-front promenade.

"The canopy is a vital design of the whole project, it connects the whole district, it is a specific landmark and it provides a cover for people from bad weather," Suen told a meeting of the Legislative Council.

"After consulting professional opinions, we found no specific technical problem in building the canopy. We will not give an estimate on the cost of the project since the proposals are still being studied.

"At this stage, we do not believe the design or the cost will affect the feasibility of the project."

Suen claimed Wong's earlier suggestion, that an official had told developers to decide whether or not to build the canopy based on cost, was just an assumed scenario.

But Suen was forced to back down after Wong and unionist legislator Chan Yuen-han both objected to his comments and pointed out that they were both present at the meeting when the official made the comment.

"Then I should say the official was absent-minded and said something which shouldn't be said," countered Suen.

"Let me reassure you, as the chief secretary [Donald Tsang] has said several times, that the canopy is a mandatory requirement of the project. If none of the proposals fulfil that requirement, we would rather abandon the project."
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