In March this year, influential Hong Kong blogger Hemlock ( www.biglychee.com ) waxed poetic about the conflicts the WKCD perpetually inflames. “There will be volatile, trendy young creative types demanding time and space for the latest Canto-avant-garde,” Big Lychee scrawled dramatically. “...Chinese opera activists with connections in Beijing and a zero-tolerance attitude to uppity barbarians. There will be Christian fundamentalists crawling all over the place ready to screech in outrage at the slightest hint of nudity. There will be friction, rivalry, backstabbing and disharmony everywhere…” Hyperbolic language and fatalistic reasoning, to be sure, but the blogger hit on a critical point: that the West Kowloon development has continually been stalled, its erstwhile administrators huffing in frustration, because groups and individuals far and wide hold such strong opinions about it. They wield valid points, too. One critic, legislator Alan Leong Kah-kit, is concerned about the bloating pricetag of the project (costs have risen 40 percent since 2008) and what that portends for the balance between artistic spaces and money-making ones, such as shops and fancy flats. “What I fear is that at the end of the day, the government will come back to Legco and tell us, ‘Well, look here, unless you allow us to raise the plot ratio for commercial and residential buildings, we can’t see it through to completion,’ said Leong, who is former chair of the Legco sub-committee devoted to the WKCD. A separate discussion centers on who should spearhead the project. One advocate for a local to take the lead is May Fung of the Hong Kong Institute for Contemporary Culture, who worries that outsourcing cultural programs to foreign-born innovators will somehow stymie the growth of a grassroots arts movement. (Rocco Yim is the only Hongkonger among the three finalists.) Beyond big-picture issues, many said the plan lacks concrete details. It’s understandable at this stage of the process, but interest groups nevertheless sweat the small stuff. Some wonder about the practicalities of the district—for one, are there enough facilities to accommodate large groups? Hong Kong Society for Education in Art’s Katharine Leung Chi-fan has asked whether the area is suitable for activities such as school trips. It’s essential, she said, that the planners include enough cafeteria space and lecture halls so that schools don’t have to encounter months-long waits to visit the WKCD. “The architects have very big ideas, but when you are a user, we are concerned about whether it’s convenient for teachers and students to go to the area,” Leung said. “We are concerned about whether there is a good spot for us to let the students get off the coach. Is it too far to walk?” Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Institute for Contemporary Culture Ada Wong agreed: “West Kowloon cannot simply be just full of art consumers. We need the art producers. We need the artists to live and work in West Kowloon, and we also need the art students to walk around.” (Wong, though, applauds the attention the three architects have paid to educational facilities, green space and a spread-out arrangement of buildings.) Well-known post-80s writer Tang Siu-wa prioritizes the everyday Hongkongers’ sense of ownership of the area, according to her piece in the Chinese-language Sing Tao newspaper. Tang, who has also championed adding a dedicated space for literature to a complex seemingly focused on visual art, added that the government is prioritizing the designs’ glossy and impressive presentation to mask the absence of a driving philosophy. But there is evidence, however anecdotal, that everyday folks are speaking out. Thousands have gone to see exhibitions of the three models, and many have jotted their thoughts on the WKCDA’s questionnaire, internet message boards and the like. Of chief concern are the facilities that don’t relate to art, namely apartment buildings, hotels, offices and retail and entertainment outlets. One group demands the government clearly explain their locations and other details; some advocate sprinkling affordable and student housing into the mix to counteract potent and well-founded fears that the housing options will be ritzy, out-of-reach and antithetical to the idea of a place that is open to all. Another oft-discussed topic is the dominance of parkland. Some advocate for more; others say it detracts from other goals. There’s also a string of gripes about exclusions. What about temples, churches or other places of worship? A place for artisans to produce and sell crafts? Room for breakdancing? Small boutiques in addition to mainland-coveted LV stores? On a Facebook discussion page moderated by a member of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, netizens chimed in with myriad suggestions: ballroom dancing; an artificial gravel beach; nighttime movie screenings. Another commenter asked that the flats in the area be reserved for local purchase on the condition that they rent them out to backpackers from time to time, while yet another supports an area devoted to animation and comic books so that “it doesn’t become a district for old people.” In a talk at the Fringe Club last week where the three architecture firms in the running presented their plans and took questions, even more issues cropped up: How can the flagship museum M+ be so massive when there isn’t even any art to put into it? How much emphasis should be placed on Chinese opera and other traditional arts compared with Western ones? What good is a park if stringent Hong Kong law prohibits doing many activities in them? Does Hong Kong have enough theater buffs to fill so many venues? Which plan makes best use of the harborfront? Which is most accessible—via car, bus, MTR, foot? Is most adaptable should budgets shrink mid-construction? Encapsulates Hong Kong’s urban and rugged sides? Is most energy-efficient? In 1961 rogue urban planning critic Jane Jacobs wrote: “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” Fifty years later, her reasoning holds true. Add your voice to the choir. Read on to find out about the West Kowloon Cultural District’s tumultuous history, the three proposals under consideration and what the critics say—and how you can actually influence the future of the arts in Hong Kong.