The West Kowloon Cultural District Authority (WKCDA) announced today the appointment of Herzog & de Meuron + TFP Farrells (supplementary information at Annex), a partnership of two leading architectural practices in the world and in Hong Kong, to design the building of M+, the museum for visual culture, in the West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD).

The team will work with the WKCDA over the next four years to design and deliver a world-class facility to house Hong Kong's future museum for 20th and 21st century visual culture, scheduled for completion in 2017.

Announcing the appointment after approval by the WKCDA Board in a meeting today, Chairman of the Board, Mrs Carrie Lam, said, "We are thrilled that a world renowned architect will now take up the design of a flagship facility in the district, supported by a leading practice in Hong Kong. The WKCDA, together with the design team, will continue to engage the arts community to ensure detailed designs of the building would meet their requirement and anticipations."

Situated on the waterfront of the Victoria Harbour at the edge of the 14-hectare Park, M+ will be one of the first batch of arts and cultural venues to be completed in the WKCD.   Principally it will be a museum for the Hong Kong people, firmly rooted in the location and its unique culture, which provides a Hong Kong perspective, with a global vision, expanding to other regions of China, Asia and the rest of the world.  M+ will provide space for artists to meet, exhibit and experiment, as well as housing a world-class permanent visual culture collection.  The winning design was selected unanimously by an international Jury Panel.

At the meeting, the WKCDA Board also reviewed the financial status of the WKCD project and charted the way forward amidst concerns on possible adverse implications brought by rising construction costs since inception of the project.

The Board noted that the Administration had reaffirmed its commitment to developing the WKCD in accordance with the Development Plan, which had undergone extensive public consultation and was approved by the Chief Executive-in-Council in January 2013.  Despite the challenge presented by cost escalation, the Administration and the WKCDA are committed to developing the WKCD into a world-class hub of arts and culture. The Board resolved to adopt a pragmatic approach to develop facilities that are fit for purpose, which will be implemented according to the following principles -

1. Rigorous cost containment of individual facilities to a level as close to the original budget as possible;
2. Emphasis on content rather than form of these facilities; and
3. Early delivery of the Park as well as some arts and cultural facilities for public enjoyment.

On cost containment, the WKCDA is conducting rigorous value engineering exercise for the Xiqu Centre and negotiating with the selected design team of M+ to lower the project cost as far as practicable, without compromising the overall function and quality of the facilities.   The Board was informed that the WKCDA has made progress on this front, where the estimated cost of the Xiqu Centre has lowered from $2.7 billion to $2.5 - $2.6 billion.

Having conducted global design competitions for two landmark buildings, the WKCDA will organise a smaller scale competition for emerging local architects and designers for the Arts Pavilion.  Consideration will be given to adopt a more functional and pragmatic approach in the design and construction of other facilities, putting emphasis on functionality and user requirements.

To ensure early delivery of the Park and other facilities and after a critical review of the Park development, the WKCDA is exploring the feasibility of turning the fully landscaped Park into quality open space with a cluster of modular arts and cultural facilities and "pop-up" catering facilities, which could be delivered in much compressed programmes, for early enjoyment by the public and the arts community.

On the implementation programme, the WKCDA will strive to complete the first batch of facilities - Xiqu Centre, M+, eastern portion of the Park facing the waterfront (including the Arts Pavilion), Freespace (a black box and an outdoor stage in the form of an acoustic shell), and a modular performance venue --  by 2018.  The second batch of facilities could include the Lyric Theatre, Medium Theatre I, Centre for Contemporary Performance, and some resident company facilities that are strongly demanded by the performing arts groups. The remaining venues can only be built after the completion of the integrated basement.

In view of WKCDA's financial condition, the WKCDA would explore the feasibility of having the Mega Performance Venue and Exhibition Centre wholly privately funded and will review the way forward for the development of the two facilities, taking into account views of stakeholders, market demand, and availability of interested private investors etc..

When the $21.6 billion upfront endowment was granted in 2008 to implement the WKCD project, the Administration has committed to the Legislative Council (LegCo) that it would undertake other communal and government facilities and related engineering works, with funding to be sought from LegCo separately.  Acknowledging that the integrated basement was not covered in the recommendations of the Consultative Committee on the Core Arts and Cultural Facilities of the WKCD, and that there are complex technical and architectural interfacing issues among WKCD facilities, public infrastructure works and basement facilities for the topside hotel, office and residential developments, the Administration is prepared to fully fund and take up the capital works of the integrated basement as general enabling works to facilitate the development of the WKCD project, subject to funding approval by LegCo and availability of staffing resources.  This would also allow the WKCDA to focus on delivering the arts and cultural facilities.

Given that the WKCD development would span over a long period of time, during which the actual construction costs would be subject to many factors such as changes in economic conditions, detailed design of the facilities, the development schedule and the mode of financing for individual projects, only upon the finalisation of the detailed design of the facilities would it be possible to make reliable cost estimations. 

"Past experience shows that, over a period spanning two decades, there could be changes of significant magnitude in the construction costs both upward and downward. We have no plan to seek additional capital injection to the endowment fund at this stage and will review in due course the need to seek additional funding in light of any changes in circumstances and our continued effort of cost containment," Mrs Lam added.

The WKCDA will also proactively explore alternative sources of funding such as donation and sponsorship through granting of naming rights of certain facilities/parts of facilities. 

The WKCDA is also looking at generating additional gross floor area (GFA) through minor relaxation of GFA and/or building height restriction under section 16 of the Town Planning Ordinance to optimise the development potential of the WKCD site.

"Cost is very much in our mind as we move into the detailed design and construction phase of the WKCD project.  I am pleased that the Board has undertaken a rigorous review of the whole project at this critical juncture, and am confident that we can deliver the facilities as mentioned.  We shall continue to engage the arts community and stakeholders, and bring them with us on our journey towards realizing this important project for Hong Kong." Mrs Lam concluded.


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