Government panel selects arch design for its new offices The towering, arch-shaped design known as The Door has been chosen from four contenders for the Hong Kong government's new headquarters on the harbourfront at Tamar - though it may not have been the option most popular with the public. The government yesterday announced a selection panel had picked the proposal by a Gammon-Hip Hing joint venture, but did not make public the preferences expressed online and by visitors to an exhibition of models of the designs. It would not say whether the public's opinions would be revealed later. The choice was generally welcomed by professionals, but critics said keeping secret the views of the 13,000 people who filled in comment cards on the designs flew in the face of Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's pledge of greater engagement with the public on decision-making. A contract to build the headquarters, a building for the Chief Executive's Office and Executive Council, a new chamber for the Legislative Council and a building for lawmakers and the Legco secretariat will be awarded this year. Work is expected to be completed by 2010. The four proposals were given scores by the selection panel; 60 per cent of the score for each was for quality and 40 per cent for cost. Sources close to bidders said the winning bid's price was at the top end of the budget, which is HK$5.2 billion. The government said a letter of intent had been issued to the winning bidder but that this did not mean it would get the contract. The selection panel would need to reach a decision about that, which would depend on Gammon-Hip Hing getting the approval of the Town Planning Board. Planning permission is needed since under its plan, part of the Legislative Council building encroaches on an area designated for open space. The developers must apply to the board for rezoning of that part of the site. They must also meet the tender requirement of keeping 2 hectares of open space at the Admiralty site, formerly a British naval dockyard. 'Whether the board will approve the application depends on the accessibility of the open space [in the company's design],' Chinese University architecture professor and planning board member Bernard Lim Wan-fung said. 'For example, will it be open to the public 24 hours? Will we be able to walk directly to the waterfront?' He said the chosen proposal was the best of the four because it provided better air flow and was a more elegant design. Professor Lim urged the government to publish the public's views on the four proposals and the scores the panel, headed by the chief secretary, awarded them. Albert Lai Kwong-tak, chairman of the Hong Kong People's Council for Sustainable Development, agreed. 'If the government does not announce the public's opinions ... it will be detrimental to public enthusiasm [for the project],' he said. Vincent Ng Wing-shun, former vice-president of the Hong Kong Institute of Architects, said the winning design integrated the complex into the open space. 'It's just like the government is embracing the public, it's welcoming,' he said. Other architects, who declined to be named, likened it to the new CCTV headquarters in Beijing, also in the form of an arch, while others said the distance between offices in the two sides of the arch might hinder communication among staff. Gammon Construction chief executive Thomas Ho On-sing said it was too early to comment.