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  • Dec 19, 2014
  • Updated: 9:56pm

Cultural district's boss needs small team of creative minds

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 July, 2009, 12:00am

Regarding Sir David Tang Wing-cheung's piece on the West Kowloon Cultural District ('Take up the baton', July 4), I would like to offer observations and suggestions from my work on Central waterfront.

Sir David notes he 'hadn't fully grasped that the project was not just the building of a collection of cultural institutions, but one which necessarily included other non-cultural aspects and facilities' in a vibrant district. It is tremendously difficult to create a new district that can rival the urban fabric that has evolved over decades.

He cites London's South Bank as an example of what West Kowloon could become, but, as he notes, South Bank was a revitalisation project in which the addition of attractions drew people, which generated buzz, which drew more people, and so on. I worked on the redevelopment of Berlin's Potsdamer Platz, a large area freed by the demolition of the Berlin Wall. Despite the determined efforts of creative people and massive investment, it lacks the vitality, charm, and community of many old districts. Think of the difference in character of the Star Ferry terminals on either side of the harbour. Still, hats off to Sir David for aiming high and for calling on government to sponsor and champion great work under strong leadership.

Here are a number of problem-solving ideas I believe apply equally to West Kowloon and Central waterfront. First, the chief executive should engage a small team of creative social and business minds to brainstorm key activities and uses, develop and evaluate alternative concepts and formulate a complete and concrete vision - all before master-plan work begins.

The enterprise should avoid reinventing the wheel by benchmarking other comparable districts. That work might help [planners] determine how best to divide the problem into more manageable parts, as well as to consider how the development might be broken into smaller components that could spur competition and innovation.

Finally, there is a question I wish Sir David and West Kowloon's other champions would raise: shouldn't Central waterfront be considered at the same time as West Kowloon?

Dick Groves, Wan Chai

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