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Take a Closer Look – West Kowloon Cultural District - WKCD

Hong Kong, as an international financial city, never stops developing its economy system to increase its competitiveness in the world. However, when we focus too munch on the financial world sometimes our culture and traditional history can be overlooked. In order to boost cultural and entertainment establishments in Hong Kong, a project called West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD) is proposed and currently under development.

Directly supported by the government with an upfront endowment of HKD 21.6 billion for its construction and operation, the WKCD is the largest arts and cultural project in Hong Kong to date. 17 core arts and cultural venues and free space and public area for arts education are expected to be included in this district. The two major components in this new development plan are the M+ Museum and the Performing Arts facilities.

M+ Museum
M+ Museum is one of the key buildings at the western end of the WKCD. It is defined as a museum of not only art, but of visual culture, including the four elements of design, popular culture, moving images and visual art. M+ mainly exists of 4 main parts: 1. Found Space, 2. Public Platform, 3. Podium Level (conventional galleries), and 4. Vertical Slab (a very thin tower building). The foundation work contract is awarded in 2014, which marks the transition of the project from the detailed design stage to construction stage. The completion of M+ building is scheduled for 2018.

Performing Art Venues – Xiqu Centre
On the other end (eastern edge) of the WKCD, you will find the Xiqu Centre. This is an art venues specifically built for the most unique and rational Chinese art form – Xiqu (Chinese opera). The construction of this world-class venue already started in Sept 2013 and is scheduled for completion in 2016. Other Performing Arts Venues include a Lyric Theatre, am outdoor stage, a Music Centre, a Musical Theatre and an Exhibition Centre etc.

Difficulties and Challenges
After the establishment of the WKCD Authority in 2008, the members of the executive team has been keep changing. The first Executive Director, Angus Cheng, was appointed in June 2009, but resigned within 2 weeks for personal reasons. Graham Sheffield, who was appointed as the Chief Executive Officer in 2010, resigned after five months for health issues. Michael Lynch, a replacement for Graham, also resigned without completing his term. These top-level personnel changes may imply that there are more hidden or internal problems for the project then what we can see.

The project is also closely linked with the Express Rail Link project. The Kowloon Terminus is located in West Kowloon next to the WKCD and is connected to the WKCD. It is also connected to MTR Kowloon and Austin Station. With all these connections, the Kowloon Terminus can link WKCD together with different public transports, and bring more visitors including local citizens and tourists to the district. However, due to the delay in the construction of Express Rail Link project, the construction work of WKCD has been slowed down and delayed. Phase 1 of the project is expected to be completed in 2017. Phase 2 is scheduled for completion in 2020. And Phase 3 is postponed until after 2020. The delays in construction works also result in the increase of construction cost. The latest estimation of the final cost is between HKD 40 billion to HKD 50 billion now.

The WKCD project not only creates an open door for more economic activities in the tourism industry in the long run, but also creates a lot of career opportunities for the engineering and construction professionals. Planning engineers are required to monitor the project and help the project to recover from the delays. Other front-line engineers are also essential for the success completion of this project. Although there are some uncertainties in the fate of this project, WKCD is still one of the most impressive and exciting projects in HK to date.

Rita Chan
Maxim Recruitment
Hong Kong Office

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