This year’s BODW also served as a medium to reveal plans for Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Cultural District project through the intervention of some of the project’s main leaders.
Two key actors in the West Kowloon Cultural District project gave conferences and interviews detailing the project and its impact on the city: Michael Lynch, CEO of West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, who was previously director of the Sidney Opera House, and Ascan Mergenthaler, senior partner at Herzog & de Meuron, an architecture firm who has received numerous awards, including “The Pritzker Architecture Prize“ in 2001, the “RIBA Royal Gold Medal”, and the “Praemium Imperiale”, both in 2007. Its most well-known buildings include the Tate Modern in London and the National Stadium Beijing.
Under construction since September, the complex is located on the Harbour front site, in the heart of Hong Kong, and is the front door to West Kowloon. The West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD) is to have a significant impact on the city in many ways. First of all, it has to be an area dedicated to art, education and public space. It will be a terrain for contemporary culture, uniting music, dance and drama, and is set to create a new cultural atmosphere for Hong Kong.
According to Michael Lynch who granted Squarefoot an exclusive interview, WKCD is the largest cultural project in the world. Its ambition is to make Hong Kong a world renowned cultural city. Hong Kong is a thriving, exhilarating and cosmopolitan city, however, one aspect it was lacking was a real and grand platform for visual arts and contemporary culture.
One of the major attractions at the West Kowloon Cultural District’s will be the M+ Museum of contemporary culture, designed by the celebrated architecture firm Herzog and de Meuron, who was chosen for this task following an international competition. The M+ building whose construction should be finished in 2017, will consist of 60,000 square foot of area hosting exhibitions as well as museum offices, a public restaurant and education facilities.
The WKCD will also have a performance centre as well as a park with a free space venue and an arts pavilion. Michael Lynch explains that the free space venue is to serve as an incubator for activities such as music dance and drama. It is the first feature of WKCD that has been used: it has already hosted famous festivals such as Clock and Flap which took place in November and was a great success, and has many more already programmed.
The West Kowloon Cultural District will be home to art forms that connect to the community at large. It will showcase Chinese and Cantonese culture, notably through its Xiqu centre, a Chinese opera house which will be a venue for Cantonese opera. The Xiqu Centre should be ready by 2016 in the meantime. A Bamboo theatre has been set up once a year since 2012 on its future site. M+ started showing collection before the museum building is complete. Showing that M+ is not just a construction, it has a purpose, character and spirit of its own.
This project can help transform the entire area surrounding it and develop the area by attracting tourists and thus encouraging more business development and other initiatives, leading to a property value surge. Hopefully it will also pave way as a springboard for more cultural projects to sprout throughout the city.