West Kowloon Cultural District

Donors often pick their architects, Hong Kong construction insider says in defence of local Palace Museum project

But West Kowloon Cultural District board member and lawmaker insist on greater public consultation

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 December, 2016, 1:14pm
UPDATED : Friday, 30 December, 2016, 1:14pm

Donors usually have a major say on projects they underwrite and it is “not unusual” for them to assign architects, a construction industry insider has said in defence of a plan for a Hong Kong version of the Palace Museum.

But a West Kowloon Cultural District Board member and a lawmaker called for greater public consultation after the HK$3.5 billion plan was revealed, arguing the project should be designed for Hongkongers.

Former chief of Hong Kong arts hub questions HK$3.5b museum deal

The government last week revealed a plan to build a museum in the West Kowloon Cultural District to house a permanent display of relics provided by the Palace Museum in Beijing to mark the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule. The project has been criticised for a lack of public consultation.

Speaking on a radio programme on Friday, Hong Kong Institute of Urban Design vice-president Ivan Ho Man-yiu said it was a common practice for donors to assign architects on projects they underwrite and that even the British Museum in London and the Louvre Museum in Paris did not select their designers through open tendering.

“From my experience, donors have a major say [on the designs] on projects they fund,” he said. “Many people mistakenly think [the new Palace Museum] will be funded by taxpayers’ money.”

From my experience, for donated projects the donors have a major say on projects they fund
Ivan Ho Man-yiu, Hong Kong Institute of Urban Design

The proposed museum is to be fully funded by the Jockey Club and does not require the Legislative Council’s approval. More than thousands of exhibits will be loaned by the Beijing museum on a long-term basis.

Ho added that when the Louvre lent its exhibits to Hong Kong “it had a major say in the how the collections would be displayed”.

Speaking on the same programme, West Kowloon Cultural District Authority board member Chris Ip Ngo-tung claimed the new museum plan was only made known to the board a month ago and saidgreater public participation should be sought in the future.

He claimed it was “impossible” to hold public consultation before the plan was confirmed, as there were too many shareholders involved, including Beijing authorities. But he said the public should now be consulted for the building’s design and its surrounding areas.

Tanya Chan, deputy chairwoman of a Legco panel monitoring the cultural district, also called for greater public scrutiny.

She said on a separate radio programme on Friday that the HK$3.5 billion investment only covered building construction and that costs for areas such as insurance and future operations were not included.

University of Hong Kong postgraduate student Cary Lo Chun-yu, a co-convenor of concern group JR Group, said his organisation would apply for a judicial review against the cultural district authority over the decision to build the museum unless it promised a formal public consultation in accordance with the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority Ordinance.