The Board of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority (WKCDA or the Authority) held its 89th meeting today. In the meeting, WKCDA’s Chief Executive Officer Mr Duncan Pescod reported that after weeks of social isolation, closure of most facilities in the West Kowloon Cultural District (West Kowloon or the District), working-from-home arrangement for many of the Authority’s staff, the West Kowloon project is still on track to provide an enormous boost to the city’s social, economic, artistic and cultural life in the months to come.
As Hong Kong and the world slowly adapt to a new reality, the need for the sort of distraction that the Authority can offer grows. Over the last few weekends, the Art Park has been busier than ever. The public have been showing great interest in West Kowloon’s online offerings from the performing arts teams and M+. It is observed that people around the world have been turning to artistic outlets to express their sense of community, their pride in the outstanding work of frontline workers and simply to express themselves while dealing with the lockdown. The Authority will stay the course when now people need arts and culture more than ever.
Mr Pescod reported that the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to have some effects on the progress on the Authority’s construction projects throughout March and April, but less than that in February. All construction sites have continued to operate, with strict health checks and social distancing measures properly in place to protect workers. This has allowed the work to continue. Deliveries of materials from Mainland China have resumed, although some suppliers and manufacturers are still operating at a reduced capacity.
The M+ project has now undertaken the first few statutory pre-inspections with the Fire Services Department. The process is running smoothly.
The Lyric Theatre Complex and Integrated Basement has continued to see reasonable progress in the last two months and the entire B2 base slab across the site is now completed. The contractor will begin the process of removing all the cofferdam strutting in stages, so that more of the structure of the Integrated Basement and the superstructure of the Lyric Theatre Complex can be put in place.
For the construction progress on the Hong Kong Palace Museum, the main contractor has managed to accelerate some of the structural framing works. The Authority remains confident that there would be no impact to the overall completion date in 2021.
The Government’s latest health measures require arts and entertainment facilities to be temporarily closed across Hong Kong. In light of this, the M+ Pavilion and all performing arts venues in the Xiqu Centre and Freespace remain closed until further notice.
Although the situation in Hong Kong seems to be well under control, the Authority is still advised to remain cautious. The Art Park and some of the restaurants in the Art Park and the Xiqu Centre remain open. When members of the public decide to make a visit, for the safety of everyone, they are advised to wear a mask, maintain physical distance and limit the size of the gatherings.
Mr Pescod added that the Authority will comply with the Government’s latest measures and will continue to review the situation and adjust the venues and programme arrangements accordingly.
Although Freespace remains closed, as part of West Kowloon’s efforts to reach out to people even at this time, the West Kowloon selected and made available a list of dance films on the West Kowloon Cultural District Website for people to enjoy online. The films recommended by West Kowloon’s dance team were created as part of the New Works Forum: Screendance workshop in 2015 by West Kowloon and City Contemporary Dance Company. Some were commissioned for further development and premiered at the Jumping Frames International Dance Video Festival 2016/17.
Mr Pescod also encouraged members of the public to join the West Kowloon Cultural District YouTube’s Watch Party of Tang Shu-wing's powerful site-specific interpretation of the Greek tragedy Antigone – an ancient play about the power struggle, within a ruling family and a woman who defies the authorities and risks her life to bury her rebel brother. It was first staged at West Kowloon in 2016. Originally performed outdoors by an all-women cast from the young Beijing-based Baiguang Theatre Studio and livestreamed for audiences in Hong Kong and around the world, the current rerun is available for on-demand streaming on the West Kowloon Cultural District YouTube channel until 11:59pm on 8 May 2020.
In response to a series of cancellations of programmes, the M+ Curatorial team has significantly increased the museum’s digital content and online presence. In addition to the existing online content platforms of M+ Stories and M+ Collections Beta, the team has created and published a video walkthrough of the ‘Sigg Prize 2019’ exhibition at the M+ Pavilion, which is temporarily closed due to restrictions on social gatherings. West Kowloon has also created a portal on the West Kowloon Cultural District website for existing digital and video content from past exhibitions and programmes, which can be used as teaching resource. The content and teaching plans from M+ Rover will be presented soon on M+ and West Kowloon’s online platforms.
Lastly, Mr Pescod provided an update on the Art, Commerce and Exhibitions (ACE) development package within West Kowloon. The ACE Project is the first Hotel/Office/Residential project to be implemented by WKCDA. It includes an Exhibition Centre which can also be used as a performance venue, a hotel and rental offices together with embedded Retail, Dining and Entertainment facilities, and is procured as an integrated development to harness the expertise of relevant private sector developer and facility operators.
The Expression of Interest exercise closed on 26 August 2019 and strong interest was received. The pre-qualification applications were strictly evaluated, and several applicants were shortlisted.
An open and competitive tender process started on 27 April 2020. The Authority will award to the successful tenderer a contract to design, construct, finance, maintain and operate the ACE Project under a Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) period of 43 years (5 years for construction and 38 years for operation).
Under the BOT and incoming sharing arrangement, the ACE development will allow WKCDA to capture market capability and opportunities, achieving the highest and best site optimisation to deliver maximum commercial value to WKCDA, while providing a fantastic new performance and exhibition venue at the heart of Hong Kong.
The completion of the ACE Project and the activities to be accommodated in the ACE facilities will become an important new venue furthering the Authority’s objectives under the WKCDA Ordinance. The ACE Project as a whole will also generate a steady source of recurrent income for and enhance the long-term financial sustainability of WKCDA.
About the West Kowloon Cultural District
The West Kowloon Cultural District is one of the largest and most ambitious cultural projects in the world. Its vision is to create a vibrant new cultural quarter for Hong Kong on forty hectares of reclaimed land located alongside Victoria Harbour. With a varied mix of theatres, performance spaces, and museums, the West Kowloon Cultural District will produce and host world-class exhibitions, performances and cultural events, providing twenty-three hectares of public open space, including a two-kilometre waterfront promenade.