Outrage over artists' 'false impressions'

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 April, 2011, 12:00am

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You could call it an extreme case of artistic licence. Hoardings erected around part of the Central-Wan Chai bypass depict what the finished project might look like.

The hoardings - between the IFC and the Central ferry piers - show sprawling green fields rolling down to sparkling blue waters and majestic trees unblemished by any glimpse of cement. But the murals have little to do with reality.

'We have always suggested first that these hoardings be transparent,' said Paul Zimmerman, chief executive of the lobby group Designing Hong Kong.

'There's no need to shield what is going on and people actually like to watch the work being done. Also, [the hoardings] block the view of the harbour, which is unnecessary and a waste of that resource. As far as the artists' impressions stand, it's OK to be creative but if what you place there is a misrepresentation or confusing - that is just wrong.'

The Central-Wan Chai bypass is scheduled for completion in 2017 and the area around the hoardings has been in the news for the past 12 months. IFC tenants and lobby groups tried to stave off the Highways Department's plans to position there one of the multistorey ventilation stacks that will service the bypass.

They claimed the stack would block harbour views and was not in line with Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor's promise that the area would provide 'a mixture of social, recreational, entertainment, arts and cultural activities, in addition to landscaped open spaces and promenades'.

None of the artist's impressions on the hoarding feature any roadworks or the commercial and recreational facilities that are planned for the areas depicted. Benedict Cheung, a Highways Department project engineer for the bypass project, said they were not a true reflection of how the finished project would look.

'The main function of hoardings is to delineate the area between the construction site and public areas,' he said. 'In order to reduce the visual impact from the erected hoarding and to provide the general public with a better understanding of the project, artists' representations on hoardings are displayed.

'The designs are artists' impressions only, the public are invited to visit the CLC [Community Liaison Centre] for a scale model of the project for a nearer-to-the-truth picture of the project.'

A spokesman for project contractor Leighton Asia said the Highways Department had been presented with a selection of artists' representations of the finished product which would 'enhance the site visually for our stakeholders and the public'.

Zimmerman said he was concerned that what was being depicted was less than the truth. 'It's certainly not the first time this has happened - the murals depicting the harbourfront after the Central reclamation show people wining and dining right next to the harbour and we all know that is never going to happen.'

Lydia Lee, an engineer with AECOM, another partner in the bypass project, said if the public wanted to see what was going on, they could go to the community liaison office.

'We have all sorts of ways to tell the public what the actual finished project will look like,' she said. 'We have a scale model which is a true reflection of the finished product.'

Zimmerman was unimpressed. 'Why cover everything up? And if you do have to cover it all up, don't lie. It would be a much better idea to put some real art on these sites.'