Foster's plan to be used in full

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 April, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 April, 2002, 12:00am

Officials have dismissed suggestions they adopt a pick-and-mix approach to the West Kowloon waterfront development, and are preparing to adopt Lord Norman Foster's award-winning design in full, the Sunday Morning Post has learned.

News of the commitment to Lord Foster's design emerged ahead of another visit by the architect to Hong Kong, tentatively planned for April 18, when his West Kowloon design will be officially awarded top prize in the design contest.

While there have been appeals to the Government to integrate other winning designs into the master plan, a source close to the Government told the Post it would be foolhardy to break the continuity of Lord Foster's design, which includes a massive canopy roof following the shape of the harbour.

The roof, covering 25 hectares, would 'reinvent' the notion of indoor and outdoor entertainment by grouping under one unified roof a variety of public facilities such as opera, cinemas, offices, retail malls and open spaces, according to the design brief.

'It's hard to deviate from it. It's not easy to gather different concepts into the layout plan,' the source said.

'Unless major technical problems are detected in the design, it is the wish of the Government the site should be developed according to the prize design.

'Otherwise, what's the point of having a world competition and calling a jury of experts to make their professional judgment?'

Last month, Lord Foster, when asked of the possibility of a mixture of concepts for West Kowloon, said bluntly: 'It would be a tragedy - a tragedy for Hong Kong.'

His $24 billion plan also features a retail and restaurant spine leading the flow of people to the west end's waterfront opera and theatre core.

Lord Foster's design model will be on display tomorrow at the Chinese University, together with the second prize-winning design and three honourable-mention winners.

Rocco Yim Sen-kee, the local architect who took one of the honourable mentions, agreed it was hard to merge different designs into one plan, but said technical and financial considerations had to be taken into account.

'It is a question of what the Government puts more emphasis on - the design form or the feasibility. Sometimes, it's not just the design,' Mr Yim said.

The chairman of lobby group Urban Watch, Wong Wah-sang, said it was inevitable the master layout plan had to fall in line with Lord Foster's concept, which was 'striking and impressive'. But he said variation could be acceptable under the canopy roof.

The source added that so far there had been no decision on a development mechanism for Lord Foster's project.

He said the projected annual $1.3 billion in revenue from civic and cultural facilities under the Lord Foster plan may have overestimated the scale of Hong Kong's appetite for arts and culture.

'Details like these require further investigation by the consultancy. The Government needs to ensure the design is feasible, not just great,' the source said.