West Kowloon Cultural District

Defending arts hub spending

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 March, 2013, 2:35am

I refer to the letter by Mark Peaker ("Culture hub poverty claims are an insult", March 1).

West Kowloon Cultural District is an ambitious project. Each of the elements is being prudently budgeted and the capital costs are at an equivalent cost per square metre to other major cultural facilities being built worldwide, notwithstanding the escalating construction costs in Hong Kong in the last six years.

I see it as my duty to keep the board, the government, the lawmakers and the public informed at every step of the project and I shall continue to do so when we have updates on the financial status of the project.

It is not a question of "begging" for money, but rather, maintaining transparency.

In terms of the comparison of the West Kowloon Cultural District project with the construction of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao - they are projects completely different in scope and scale. The Guggenheim Museum is a stand-alone museum project, ours is an integrated 40-hectare district of arts and leisure, accommodating 17 arts and cultural facilities of different sizes and nature, including M+, which we hope will rival Bilbao.

In the 1990s, the Guggenheim Bilbao had its own critics when Spain's Basque country decided to spend millions on a modern art museum. Sufficient time has passed since its opening to evaluate the museum's effectiveness in stimulating the city's economy, providing jobs and a rich cultural life for the city. The West Kowloon Cultural District is conceived to have exactly this effect.

Substantial progress has been made in delivering the West Kowloon Cultural District project over the past year:

  • The master plan has been approved by the Chief Executive in Council;
  • We have selected an architect and design concept for the first arts venue, the Xiqu Centre;
  • We shall select an architect for the visual arts museum M+ by the middle of this year; and
  • We have already staged successful programmes for audiences on the site.

Construction is planned to start this year. The West Kowloon Cultural District Authority will continue to work steadfastly to deliver the project on schedule, to open its first venue in 2016.

I have complete faith that the district will change the face of Hong Kong's cultural landscape for the better.

Michael Lynch, chief executive officer, West Kowloon Cultural District Authority