Monday, 21 March 2011

Venture of Culture in Hong Kong (West Kowloon Cultural Hub)

(This blogpage contains explicit materials some people might find offensive.)

The jury members of the West Kowloon Cultural District masterplan competition.  Can we feel culture in the air?


It is predictable yet woeful to know that Norman Foster has been chosen as the winner of the West Kowloon Cultural District masterplan design competition.  What can one expect from the SAR government and its design advisory board on issues of art and culture?  No wonder why the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority CEO, Graham Sheffield, had decided to call it a day in Hong Kong after a service of merely five months.  Smart move indeed.

When Henry Tang explained to us on TV that the overriding factor for choosing Foster’s scheme is its flexibility and ability to build the cultural hub in stages, one can only be dumbfounded on the extremely low quality mindsets the government officials have.  It is not design merits but normative practicalities that count.  And it is a crying shame they think so lowly the artistic judgment of the Hong Kong people when spelling out the reasons.

It is a situation tinged with anger and sadness.  One can only comment on this result with sarcasm and a bit of lateral thinking.

Behind the shades

The concept of ‘City Park’ is seriously dated as architectural concept and anonymous to the Hong Kong context.

A truly visionary masterstroke from Norman Foster that the 19-hectare green park boasting leafy vegetation throughout, in fact, can effectively hide potential ugly museums and concert halls on the same site in future.  Remember the difficult facelift challenges we still confront with on the cultural centre and space museum.

Most expansive tree planting exercise in the world

Foster’s tactics of tree planting captivate the local folks.  Plainly speaking, he is a clever fox with long experiences in Hong Kong.

Just in passing, as the buildings play second fiddle and the infrastructure is designed to serve the greenery, how much does it cost to plant the trees in order to materialize Foster’s grand concept of ‘City Park’?  With an overall budget of 21,600 million and a target of 5000 trees, it takes a tidy sum of 4.32 million to grow a tree.  The leisurely strolling under the canopies of trees acquires a fiscal dimension.


Architect’s decision as God’s will

Lamentable poor souls that are trapped in an underground working space.


To execute on the beautiful vision of LOHAS, all car users are persecuted from enjoying day light and fresh air since all major vehicular roads will be sunken at subterranean levels.  Unfortunately, this applies to service vehicles in which support staff and delivery people would not have the choice to use public transport for their work.  Their only option is to consume flume and be exempt from natural lighting as far as their works are concerned.  Cruel and punitive formalism of boardroom decisions from the architect and the management.  Well, would they care?

Sentimental keywords always win the day

Sullen looking Rem Koolhaas too esoteric for Hong Kong.

Rocco Yim with lesson to learn.

Incorrect prevailing wind direction - one typical mistake from foreign architects including Norman Foster who do not care to investigate on the local environment.

Foster claims to achieve a carbon-neutral rating for the development.  The grey water recycling, heat recovery and solar energy strategies he listed out are nothing new and are almost as dated as the concept of ‘City Park’.  The wind energy generation is a token gesture at a very high construction costs, a pretty design toy for one technology architect like Norman Foster.  Rem Koolhaas, highly regarded for his avant garde thinking, would have sneezed at the idea of peddling mechanical provisions in the Architect’s Statement.

Playing Dan Brown in Hong Kong

The middle finger - ICC tower by KPF architects.


A ‘canon and balls’ statement boldly designed by Foster.


One codified message I read from Foster’s scheme is the egotistic phallic motif he planted on the grand masterplan.  After all, he has proudly pocketed four major projects in this city, namely the HSBC Headquarters, Chek Lap Kok Airport, the Cruise Terminal and this time, the West Kowloon Masterplanning.  With an inkling from the book The Da Vinci Code, Foster’s phallic statement boldly echoes with the middle finger hidden symbol dressed up as the nearby ICC building by KPF of the United States.  Such subversive messages for the innocent public of Hong Kong may prove too much to bear.

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