Foster says super-roof will work

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 March, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 March, 2002, 12:00am

World-renowned British architect Lord Norman Foster yesterday insisted his plan to build the world's largest roof over West Kowloon's waterfront was feasible, despite criticism from local experts.

Lord Foster, visiting the SAR to outline his $24 billion plans to Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa, said the canopy would only account for three per cent of the total cost of the project.

He said he believed the design would help Hong Kong rediscover its identity. 'The design is comfortable in its setting, next to the water that is important to Hong Kong,' Lord Foster said.

The ambitious design was chosen last month as the winner of a competition for the development of the area. Lord Foster also designed the HSBC Tower in Central and Chek Lap Kok airport.

Lord Foster, whose firm's entry in the competition was paid for by Sun Hung Kai Properties, also said he was 'completely open-minded' about which developers he would team up with on the project.

When asked about his firm's partnership with Sun Hung Kai, Lord Foster said they were still working closely, although there was no contractual limit on the relationship. 'We feel we are one team. We have been working closely with them. We will continue to work with them,' he said.

He said that the diversity of the overall plan would offer opportunities to many developers, architects and contractors. 'We are completely flexible on [who we work with],' he said.

However, the enormous canopy, which would cover 25 hectares - seven hectares larger than Chek Lap Kok's roof - would likely require a sole developer and would be difficult to split among multiple contractors.

The Government is now preparing consultancy briefs to draw up the master layout plan for the development, based on Lord Foster's design.

Lord Foster's team and the four runners-up in the contest automatically qualify to bid for the consultancy.

Presenting a model of his design, Lord Foster said his vision was to reinvent the conventional way arts and cultural zones could be presented, by mixing indoor and outdoor concepts under one 'unifying' canopy.

He said that the canopy, open at its edges and partly open on top, could offer an outdoor space with a feeling of being indoors, changing the traditional notion of outdoor entertainment.

In the days following the announcement of his design's victory, local architects expressed concern that the roof would overwhelm the project's budget.

But Lord Foster said yesterday the canopy, 30 per cent of which would be built with solid panels and the remainder either open or built in a louvre style, would cost only about $70 million, or three per cent of the total.

The low-rise design was intended to celebrate Victoria Harbour and challenge the predominance of high-rise blocks.

The area will provide nine million square feet of office, retail, restaurant, theatre, opera and cinema space and incorporate open spaces and a semi-covered lagoon at its west end.

'The challenge is to provide high-quality cultural life in a city which has increasing density,' he said.