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designing hong kong

Mix or mismatch West Kowloon? Just pick the designer you can trust!

The three architects – Rocco, Koolhaas and Foster - have presented their conceptual plans for the West Kowloon Cultural District.

After first saying that elements of the three plans could be combined, leaving the power to determine the final masterplan with the burocrats, Government is now denying that it will allow a mismatch, and that it will ‘largely’ (danger signs remain) follow one chosen design.

For West Kowloon to have an iota of a chance to succeed, we need to take one more step. We need to ask the community not just to judge the three designs, but to judge which architect they can trust to lead the project through its different stages over the next decade.

The ‘West Kowloon Cultural District Stage 2 Public Engagement Exercise’ questionnaire should ask three more questions:

1.       Which architect has the greatest clarity of vision?

2.       Which architect speaks the most confident language?

3.       Which architect demonstrates an ability to think outside and beyond the project?

Rem Koolhaas beats his opponents on all three.

His vision of ‘art at work’ sets the tone for an ‘art production’ district, creating the facilities and spaces for the arts community to develop – not just a leisure and culture consumption zone.

His concept speaks of three villages. Each of which can develop organically and take on their own distinct neighbourhood character.

He understands that the harbour itself does not activate parks and promenades. Rather than a massive park along the water he has created two main parks which connect at least two if not three active zones, guaranteeing these open spaces to be vibrant.

Importantly – whether you agree with his solutions such as the suspended road or not – he clearly identifies the transport and communication issues which need to be resolved beyond the district itself.

How about the other two architects?

Foster’s design is not only safe and boring, the team refuses to challenge the brief. This may play well with the burocrats, but it is hardly a good start for the world’s largest cultural experiment. The design looks like a commercial district not unlike those built next to airports in Europe.

Rocco’s concept is dramatically more interesting than Foster’s and offers an abundance of spaces in all shapes, forms and function. His design appears less flexible in allowing the Cultural District to grow organically, placing him right behind Koolhaas. The quality of his model and presentation materials does not do justice to his vision.

Participate in the debate over West Kowloon Cultural District

Make sure you decide for yourself by visiting the website, exhibition and forums of the West Kowloon Cultural District. All details and designs are on-line: www.wkcda.hk

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