Hong Kong architect ‘engaged’ to design Palace Museum ahead of Carrie Lam’s announcement of project
West Kowloon Cultural District Authority’s admission puts more pressure on Lam to explain secrecy shrouding controversial museum plan
The controversy over the proposed Hong Kong Palace Museum has deepened, with the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority admitting that it had “engaged” architect Rocco Yim Sen-kee months before Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor revealed the museum plan to its board.
“The WKCDA Management had engaged ... Yim last June to ascertain whether the site ... could accommodate a multi-purpose venue for exhibition, convention and performance purposes and a museum facility, and to come up with possible design concepts,” it said in a statement.
“Subsequently, the board approved the appointment of Yim ... in relation to [the museum] project in November 2016.”
A report by FactWire news agency earlier said that Yim had started on design plans nearly half a year before Lam’s announcement. It also said that the West Kowloon Cultural District treated the Beijing-backed project with “unprecedented” secrecy, using the code name “Project P” with insiders during the initial stage.
The revelation added more pressure onto Lam – who is expected to resign next Thursday to run for Hong Kong’s top job – to explain the secrecy shrouding what she insisted would become a popular museum to showcase Forbidden City relics.
According to the media report, Rocco Design Architects, the firm of Rocco Yim Sen-kee who was chosen as the museum’s “design consultant”, started designing plans for the facility last June, about five months before a special meeting was held by the board of the arts hub to approve the museum. It was also around the same time that Yim was formally chosen.
Some lawmakers criticised the appointmentas the move departed from the usual practice where design briefs were picked through a tender. “I call on Lam to explain why Yim started work that early,” the Civic Party’s Tanya Chan said.
Lam had said in this instance, the museum involved a complex design, stressing Yim was an award-winning local architect.
FactWire, quoting sources, reported the design diagram was deliberately broken into parts, so the complete structure of the museum would not be revealed to those working on the project.
The sources added that the plan was “highly secretive”, unlike other projects they had worked on, and was also the first in their experience to have a code name.
A source also said it was only on December 23, when Lam signed the memorandum of understanding in Beijing, that the Rocco team finally realised the project the members had been working on for half a year was related to the Palace Museum.
Meanwhile, the government said the large-scale wall advertisements between Central and Hong Kong MTR stations would cost HK$1.58 million for 20 days.