Wen Jiabao

Iconic tower to be shrunk after PolyU foregoes appeal

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 May, 2008, 12:00am


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Polytechnic University has decided not to appeal against new restrictions that will see the height of a proposed landmark campus building being cut by a third under new height restrictions for Tsim Sha Tsui.

Outgoing president Poon Chung-kwong said the university had decided to go ahead with a smaller version of its HK$400 million 'innovation tower'. It will trim it from more than 70 metres down to at least 45 metres, the maximum allowed for the Tsim Sha Tsui East campus.

He said it was a pity the school had not submitted its plan two months earlier as it could have passed before the restriction was established.

'The problem is we need to compete with time,' he said. 'We need to have a new building by 2012. If we objected to the restriction now, we expect we would have to spend at least nine months in negotiations.'

The proposed tower was designed by renowned architect Zaha Hadid, the first woman to win the coveted Pritzker Architecture Prize.

Professor Poon said the university and Ms Hadid would have to discuss trimming the building from 15,000 square metres to 12,000 square metres. 'To look on the bright side, we will have 12,000 square metres in 2012 instead of zero square metres.'

The tower is designed to cope with the expected increase in students in 2012, when enrolment will be affected by the new 'three-three-four' structure - students will spend three years in junior secondary school, three years in senior secondary and four doing a degree course.

Professor Poon said the school would object to the height restriction in future building projects. 'I will only oppose [the restriction] within our campus,' he said. 'Our university cannot ask for more land to expand horizontally, so the only way we can develop is vertically.'

He asked the public not to worry about the so-called wall effect of massed, tall buildings, as the university in future would have only a few buildings over 45 metres high.

Meanwhile, he said he was delighted to receive calligraphy from Premier Wen Jiabao to mark the university's 70th anniversary. Mr Wen's note urged Polytechnic to strive for innovation, develop its potential and learn from the past.

'I am so honoured to receive it from Premier Wen, especially since this is my last year as president,' he said.

US-based scientist Timothy Tong Wai-cheung will succeed Professor Poon as president next year.