Hong Kong Palace Museum plans throw doubt on consultation

Documents emerge showing detailed layout for controversial Palace Museum project, despite bosses’ claims they are still seeking public views

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 January, 2017, 11:01pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 January, 2017, 3:30am

An apparent floor-by-floor layout plan for the controversial Hong Kong Palace Museum has raised questions over whether continuing public consultation on the project is cosmetic or genuine.

A 16-page document, acquired and released on Tuesday by FactWire, a local news agency, was said to be the design plan detailing the exterior design and facilities of each floor of the planned museum in the West Kowloon Cultural District.

FactWire reported that the layout design included floor plans for eight levels, showing the locations of facilities and galleries. It cited a document of “Project P”, generally understood as the code name for the Palace Museum project, which was undertaken in top secrecy until former chief secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor signed the memorandum confirming it would go ahead, in Beijing last month.

Aside from details of each floor, the document also revealed a cross-section plan and elevation plan which showed a ding, an ancient Chinese cauldron, exterior design and the use of glass walls to allow natural light in.

Hong Kong musicians lament loss of mega performance venue at site of Palace Museum

“Design consultant Rocco Yim Sen-kee has a more or less finalised concept regarding the exterior design of the museum, so the public consultation probably could only influence the location of facilities within,” FactWire wrote.

After the plan emerged, Yim’s company, Rocco Design Architects Limited, said: “The disclosed design layout is one of the preliminary designs studied by the architect. The overall design of the museum is still in the early stages of development.”

The West Kowloon Cultural District Authority (WKCDA) said the same thing, adding that it had not considered the designs in question.

Lone panel member speaks out over Hong Kong Palace Museum controversy at consultation meeting

Kan Tai-keung, a member of the WKCDA board – which voted unanimously in November to approve the museum project and direct appointment of Yim as the architect – also said the layout plan was not final.

“I think I saw that in a briefing in early November before the voting on the 28th, and it’s a draft on what the architect had in mind in the use of space for the project, so it’s not a final design,” the renowned designer said.

Last week, Yim said at the press conference launching the six-week public consultation that he had finished up to 80 per cent of the design, but had too little time to present it to the media since the appointment in late November.

Recruitment of Palace Museum architect may have violated racial discrimination laws

The architect remarked the future museum would be seven storeys high, with five floors of exhibition areas. That differed from the eight-level design the document showed.

“I hope the public would give their opinions on anything about the palace project, including whether it should be built or not, in the questionnaire during the consultation period,” Kan said.

But Oscar Ho Hing-kay, a professor of cultural studies at Chinese University, said the design was so detailed that the consultation could make only a superficial difference.

“It seems everything has been fixed for each floor and there isn’t much space for suggestions, except perhaps the number of toilets for ladies,” he said.