• Sat
  • Dec 20, 2014
  • Updated: 7:25am
NewsHong Kong

New Kowloon park design a long way from Central Park

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 July, 2014, 3:59am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 July, 2014, 4:42am

The urban forest rivalling New York's Central Park that was to have graced the West Kowloon Cultural District is reduced to a series of lawns under a cost-cutting design unveiled yesterday.

Money devoted to the park has been halved to HK$1 billion and green coverage of the site reduced from the originally proposed 80 per cent to 60 per cent.

It is a far cry from the 19-hectare forest proposed by world-renowned architect Norman Foster who told the South China Morning Post in 2010: "It's not just about size. It's about quality. It's got to be better than Central Park."

In the latest plan produced by a landscape architectural team appointed by the authority in February, the 5,000 trees will be replaced with an arts pavilion, black box theatre and an outdoor stage.

The plan was produced by a team of two local companies and one from overseas - Dennis Lau & Ng Chun Man Architects & Engineers, ACLA and West 8 from the Netherlands - chosen from seven contenders who submitted designs in 2012.

As well as cutting costs in an effort to cope with a tight budget, the plan is aimed at speeding up provision of arts facilities. Art critic and member of the authority's consultation panel, Ada Wong Ying-kay, said the change was down to the budget.

"We have to move forward. We need a new mentality to manage the park, where free dancing and singing should be allowed," she said.

But a veteran architect involved in one of the rival bids said it was disappointing to see the return to a traditional way of building parks - constructing the venues first and filling the remaining space with greenery.

"The park was the biggest selling point of the art hub project but few resources have been devoted to it," said Patrick Lau Hing-tat of Earthasia, also a Town Planning Board member.

Foster's plan was picked in 2011 from three proposals.

With a budget of HK$21.6 billion, the authority is struggling to complete the first two phases of the arts hub for HK$17.8 billion.

Announcing the new design yesterday, the authority declined to say if it had been the cheapest plan of the seven contenders.

It said the team was chosen for its "fantastic local and international expertise in landscaping projects" and its design stood out for its understanding that Hong Kong needed a major new green open space which could also be a vibrant and flexible venue for music, dance, theatre and other cultural programmes.



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How is it that almost every project I read about in HK somehow manages to underestimate expenses and budgets. I would imagine plenty of these people would (or should) be fearing for their jobs.
Billions for a basement but nothing for the park that would benefit everyone.
You can't leave Alphards idling in a park
Is this what West Kowloon needs to bring back the "WOW!" factor, in the way the Eiffel tower does for Paris's Trocadero and the London Eye does for the South Bank Arts centre?
Nobody is being "naive." We were promised a park but we're getting a car park. Trees don't grow out and mature into lush landscapes in Hong Kong parks because Hong Kong builds nothing more than cement lots lined with "can not" and "do not" signs.
The budget was cut to pay for more profitable projects for the tycoon construction companies. Like bridges and trains to nowhere.
It's your money. Do you want this?
To be fair, it was exactly this kind of complaints and allegations that delayed the project years ago, leading to the unnecessary increase in costs we face today. The government may not be the most efficient administrator in these projects, but whining, waiting, and delaying are very costly, too.
Let's not be naive here, an architect's model and rendering tend to show the matured state of the development. Trees, branches and leaves take time to grow. How can anybody compare a green-field project with Central Park? And why Central Park, which was developed over 150 years ago! West Kowloon is surrounded by water on two sides, how does that compare geographically with Central Park which is in the middle of city blocks! When architects have no idea what to do with empty spaces on developments, one will generally find trees, vegetation & greens !!!
Have Prada, Gucci, LV, Abercrombie, Chow Tai Fook, et al secured their spaces yet?


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