A good choice, but more transparency in order

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 July, 2007, 12:00am

The building envisaged by the government for its new headquarters is appealing and iconic; when constructed, it will be a worthy addition to Hong Kong's skyline. Of the four designs unveiled for public consultation, 'The Door' as it has become known, with its arch-like structure and open space, is the one favoured by the experts. The selection committee has made a good choice.

It now remains to be seen whether the public agrees. The process by which the design for this major development in the heart of our city was arrived at has lacked transparency and there has been limited scope for public input. Now that the design has been chosen, questions should be answered and full details made available.

One step the government should take immediately is to release the views expressed by the public on the four designs during the two month period when they were open for inspection. Around 13,000 people filled in cards to express their opinions.

The authorities have been tight-lipped about this project at every stage. We still do not know how tall the main building will be and have only a rough idea of the cost. No officials were on hand to explain the designs at the exhibition hall and the need for confidentiality was cited as the reason for not revealing more precise details when the tender was opened; such was also the case yesterday when the letter of intent was issued to the joint venture of Gammon-Hip Hing. The firms have been sworn to secrecy.

Such an approach to so important a public project is unbecoming. Our reputation as a financial centre depends on transparency. There is a need for a more open approach.

It would have been preferable to adopt steps taken by Beijing in selecting the not-dissimilar CCTV tower - an international competition was held and the winner's design was announced with fanfare.

Fortunately, the design chosen is attractive. It is to be hoped that it will enjoy public support - but this, in part, depends on it being kept informed. After all, this development is not just for our officials and legislators - it is for everyone in Hong Kong.


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