It’s back to the drawing board for a major park design in Hong Kong’s nascent West Kowloon Cultural District, and for Foster + Partners, maybe third time’s the charm.
The District’s authority announced plans to scrap a Foster + Partners-designed park at the western edge of the development. It’s a familiar story: this is the second time in 14 years that plans for the cultural district have been dropped.
“The park competition has been suspended pending a revised brief as a result of evolving public needs and demands,” the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority (WKCDA) said in a statement.
The British firm first won a design competition back in 2002, beating out 160 other proposals. That plan was extravagant, covered by a calligraphy-inspired canopy so large it created its own microclimate. The scheme was axed, plagued by flagging support from city officials and the broader public.
In March 2011, Foster made a comeback, winning another design competition for the entire District’s layout. This master plan, City Park, is still in place for the overall scheme of proposed cultural facilities, but the 60-acre, multi-billion dollar park was the plan’s crown jewel. Rather than the verdant, densely landscaped park Foster devised, WKCDA now says it wants an open field for pop-up cultural exhibitions and events. The simple design, the agency says, will ease the construction of a new batch of facilities in the area. The Xiqu Centre opera house designed by Bing Thom will break ground in late September and construction is due to start in early 2014 on the M + museum by Herzog & de Meuron. Three bids have been released for a modular theater, a black box theater, and an outdoor stage.
When asked for a comment, Foster + Partners directed RECORD to WKCDA. WKCDA says it plans to tender the park incrementally, “allowing for public participation and a more organic development, which will directly gauge users’ needs and behavior and fine tune the overall design.” A source told RECORD that had the park been eliminated altogether, Hong Kong residents would be very upset. But WKCDA says, “The park at WKCD will always be a core part of the district.”