The Board of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority (WKCDA) has noted that there have been various comments on the Hong Kong Palace Museum project and wishes to make the following statement.
The building of the Hong Kong Palace Museum in West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD) was unanimously approved by the WKCDA Board at a special Board meeting on 28 November 2016. Prior to that, the Chairman consulted senior members of the Board including the Vice Chairman, Mr Ronald Arculli and Chairman of the then Museum Committee, Mr Victor Lo in the first half of 2016 and two detailed briefings for Board members were conducted by the Chairman and senior Home Affairs Bureau officials. The Board warmly welcomed this new museum project in WKCD and learnt that it was based on long-established cultural co-operation between the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) of the Hong Kong SAR Government and the Palace Museum. Specifically, the Board noted that following a collaborative agreement signed between the two sides in 2012, large-scale exhibitions have been organised by LCSD museums in collaboration with the Palace Museum every year. These exhibitions have been very well received by members of the public as they offer a glimpse of the valuable collections of the Palace Museum and its fascinating history.
The Board appreciates that establishing a world class museum - the Hong Kong Palace Museum – in Hong Kong to showcase the best and most valuable artefacts from the world renowned collection of the Palace Museum through a long-term loan arrangement is unique. Such an arrangement has never been agreed before. This is a pivotal point in international museum practice. The Board has given the project full support in light of its benefit to Hong Kong and the WKCD. The Board acknowledges that the majority in the community understand the importance of this agreement and the very special nature of the Hong Kong Palace Museum.
In response to a comment on whether the Hong Kong Palace Museum fits into the vision and objective of WKCD, a Board spokesman pointed out that one of the functions of the Authority as set out specifically in section 4 of the WKCDA Ordinance (subsection 2(j) refers) is “to facilitate and enhance cultural exchange and cooperation between the Mainland of China and Hong Kong, and any other place”. It is clear that the Hong Kong Palace Museum will provide that platform for not only enhanced cultural exchange between Hong Kong and the Mainland, but also through Hong Kong, between the Palace Museum and the world. The Hong Kong Palace Museum is also highly complementary to the core arts and cultural facilities in WKCD already under construction or planning. In addition, Hong Kong Palace Museum will provide a valuable opportunity for collaboration with local institutions in research and education. Together with M+ Museum (under construction), the two museums will provide a broader scope to nurture the careers of professionals across curatorial, educational, conservation and other professional areas of museum management in Hong Kong.
In short, the Hong Kong Palace Museum will immeasurably enrich Hong Kong’s arts and cultural life, nurture local professionals in the museum management industry and add to the cultural attraction within the District, offering local and international visitors an opportunity to see parts of the magnificent imperial collection in Hong Kong.
Regarding another comment that WKCD should only feature contemporary arts and culture, a Board spokesman said that this simply was not the case. The WKCDA’s vision is to develop an integrated art and cultural hub to provide art, leisure, and tourism programmes of an international standard, providing a “must-visit” appeal to local residents and visitors from around the world. The building of the Xiqu Centre along with the Lyric Theatre Complex as well as other musical and performance venues is an illustration of the breadth of WKCD. WKCDA will endeavour to achieve objectives as set out in the WKCDA Ordinance including enhancement of the appreciation of a diverse and pluralistic range of the arts. The establishment of the Hong Kong Palace Museum is fully aligned with this vision.
In accordance with relevant provisions in the WKCDA Ordinance, the preparation of the Development Plan had gone through an extensive public consultation process before it was agreed by the Town Planning Board for gazettal in early 2012 and approved by the Chief Executive in Council in early 2013. The building of the Hong Kong Palace Museum on a 10,000m2 site is a use that is always permitted under the approved Development Plan for the WKCD and its proposed gross floor area and building height do not exceed the restrictions of the relevant sub-zone on the Development Plan. Therefore, it does not require planning permission from the Town Planning Board and the related public consultation.
The Hong Kong Palace Museum is a very important project for WKCD, which itself is the largest ever cultural investment in Hong Kong. The Board is thankful to the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust for the $3.5 billion donation to support the Hong Kong Palace Museum project. The Board took the view that the Hong Kong Palace Museum should be designed by a local architect. Mr Rocco Yim has very good understanding of the vision of WKCD, and is recognised for his expertise on the design and execution of world class museum buildings, with both the Guangdong Museum and the Yunnan Provincial Museum designed by him winning The Hong Kong Institute of Architects Medal of the Year Outside Hong Kong and the First Prize Award, International Invited Competition. Mr Yim is also known to be an aficionado of Chinese arts. His contributions have not only won acknowledgement from his peers, but also helped enhance the position and reputation of Hong Kong’s architectural industry internationally. The Board therefore considered it justifiable to directly commission Rocco Design Architects as the designer for the project.
The Board was not in a position to disclose any information on the project before the formal signing of The Memorandum of Understanding on the establishment of the Hong Kong Palace Museum. Now that announcement has been made, the Board is keen to engage the public and stakeholders in taking forward the project and will shortly make known the timing and manner for such engagement.
The Board is aware that there have been some commentaries that suggest the decision not to proceed with the Mega Performance Venue (MPV) was in some way linked to the Hong Kong Palace Museum project. This is simply not true. WKCDA took careful account of all relevant factors, particularly the business viability and market environment when deciding not to proceed with the MPV. Other factors also included the Government’s public commitment to press ahead with the 50 000-seat stadium (which is capable of being configured into performance venues of varying audience capacities) in the Kai Tak Sports Park project and the retention of the 12 500-seat Hong Kong Coliseum for sports and performance purposes.
In order to ensure that the review of the viability of the MPV was carried out in the most professional manner possible, the WKCDA appointed independent consultants to carry out a comprehensive review of the issues surrounding the establishment of the MPV in WKCD. After careful consideration of their report, the Board came to the conclusion that the original MPV was no longer a viable proposition, and instead the site in question should be designated for the development of a medium-sized, multi-purpose venue for exhibition, convention and performance purposes; or be considered for other alternative use. The decision taken by the Board in September 2016 regarding the future of the MPV was based only on the technical and business merits of the case. In actual fact, the Hong Kong Palace Museum makes use of only part of the MPV site. The remaining part is large enough to accommodate an Exhibition Centre suitable for multiple purposes.
Looking forward, the Board will continue to listen to all views and suggestions the community may have on the development of the WKCD and will do its best to provide a platform for the production and hosting of world class exhibitions, performances, and cultural events.
About West Kowloon Cultural District
Located on Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour, the West Kowloon Cultural District is one of the largest cultural projects in the world. Its vision is to create a vibrant new cultural quarter for Hong Kong. With a complex of theatres, performance spaces, and M+, the West Kowloon Cultural District will produce and host world-class exhibitions, performances, and cultural events, as well as provide 23 hectares of public open space, including a two kilometre waterfront promenade.