Poll favours Foster design for Kowloon cultural hub
Joyce Ng and Olga Wong
Norman Foster has produced the most popular design for the West Kowloon Cultural District, according to a public poll that ranked the three finalist design teams.
The huge green park proposed by the British architect for the 42-hectare arts hub site won the most public support in a poll of 7,310 questionnaires - even after excluding about 600 submissions that appeared to be suspiciously in his favour.
The results of the poll, conducted through self-returned answer sheets and in exit polls at exhibition venues last year, were released yesterday.
The West Kowloon Cultural District Authority will announce its selection next week.
Foster's plan was seen as the 'preferred option' based on the design of public open space, green setting, relaxing atmosphere, arrangement of hotel, office and residential facilities, environmental friendliness, and site accessibility.
Rocco Yim Sen-kee, leading the local team in the race, ranked first in the design for core arts and cultural facilities and connectivity to the neighbourhood.
But in showcasing Hong Kong's unique local and traditional characteristics, Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas got the highest score.
Peter Yuen, of Polytechnic University who analysed the feedback, said an 'irregularity' was spotted in self-returned questionnaires.
Yuen said 629 of the 4,817 self-returned questionnaires were mailed to the authority in five batches in a week in November. 'Most of them do not contain demographic information. All except 25 do not contain any written comments. The responses appear to be similar,' he said.
The responses, all favouring Foster's scheme, pushed his score higher than his competitors' in three aspects: good connectivity with neighbouring districts, catering to needs of different users, and provision of core arts and cultural facilities.
When they are taken out from the analysis, Foster remains the top scorer on average, winning by a close margin.
Asked if he was worried the poll results were rigged, Stephen Cheung Yan-leung, the chairman of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority's consultation panel, said: 'Whether the flagged cases are included or excluded, the overall results are the same.
'I believe the board will fully understand [the situation] and make selections based on objective views, taking into account public views and other criteria.'
A spokeswoman for Foster and Partners said the team was unaware of the problem questionnaires. 'None of us knew about the copies until today,' she said.
A spokeswoman for Koolhaas' Office for Metropolitan Architecture said it was a pity that people had tried to influence the results. 'That the flagged questionnaires tend to support Foster doesn't say anything. We are certain they didn't submit the questionnaires themselves.'
Yim declined to comment on the flagged questionnaires but said public views were a useful reference and any scheme that eventually won could be further improved with the merits of the other two.
Dr Chan Man-wai, a project delivery executive director of the authority, said a 10-member vetting panel had selected a scheme as a base blueprint and its recommendation - which it is keeping secret - would be submitted to the authority's board next week.
The board will make a final decision based on public opinion, planning merits, creativity, technical merits, land-use distribution and financial viability.
Norman Foster, Rem Koolhaas and Rocco Yim the design contenders
The number of participants in the public poll of the three finalist design teams for the cultural hub: 7,310
The three designs and the categories in which they came top in a public poll
Norman Foster's 'City Park'
Public open space
Hotel, office and residential facilities
Rocco Yim's 'Cultural Connect'
Design for the arts and cultural facilities
Connectivity to the neighbourhood
Rem Koolhaas' 'Project for a New Dimension'
Showcasing Hong Kong's unique local and traditional characteristics
SOURCE: POLYTECHNIC UNIVERSITY