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At a Critical Juncture (關鍵時刻)
at 4:07pm on 14th October 2011


1. Hong Kong's public viewing a model of the West Kowloon Cultural District.
2.-5. Layout and side views of cultural and infrastructure (parking, restaurants etc) facilities at the WKCD.

© Photo Courtesy: John Batten

The master plan for the West Kowloon Cultural District will be on public display at the Heritage Centre in Kowloon Park and public comments can be made until 30 October 2011. Also see:

(Please scroll down to read the Chinese version.)

At a Critical Juncture
by John Batten

STANDFIRST: There’s light at the end of the WKCD tunnel, but now, perhaps more than at any other time, the authorities absolutely must get it right

The final round of public consultations on the project design of Hong Kong’s ambitious West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD) were held in October and, after almost ten years of flawed and indecisive government decision-making, the Town Planning Board will soon consider the planning application that, when passed, will finally grant the project’s go-ahead.

Compared to Hong Kong’s other large infrastructure and construction projects, the WKCD has seen, since the scrapping of the original developer-led-and-funded construction model, an unprecedented amount of public consultation, community interest and media attention in getting the WKCD ‘right’.

In contrast, the statutory process for the construction of new highways, railway lines, heritage building preservation, and urban renewal projects is murky and non-transparent, characterized by closed-door discussions and negotiations between government departments and involved others. Input from the public only happens at the very end of those discussions when a project’s plans finally become publicly available as part of the statutory planning process. Plans presented are, in essence, a fait accompli and the public has little realistic chance of influencing their modification – though, to the gall of those that understand these planning processes, a project’s proponents can greatly alter the look of approved projects during the later “design stage” of a project’s construction life.

It appears that the hiccups (read: mistakes) experienced during the planning of the WKCD over the years, has necessitated the unprecedented involvement of the public in planning discussions. This can only be good. It means that the entire community takes decision-making ownership for the future arts and cultural facilities on the site.

Soon, architects will be invited to propose designs for individual buildings: including the M+ museum, theatres and other facilities. The WKCD Board and management will again be tested and should choose bold architectural designs that have practical and usable interiors. I imagine that public input in these decisions will be minimal, but I believe that a mandate from the public has already, almost, been established and – strange as it may seem – decision-makers will choose good architectural designs. But, if they don’t get it ‘right’ and public questioning continues, it will be tedious and disappointing. They, and we – all of us - must get it right!

This article was first published in Perspective architectural magazine, November 2011. See:


by John Batten (約翰百德)




相反,有關興建新高速公路和鐵路、保育歷史建築及市區重建的項目,法定程序卻模糊不清,透明度欠奉,政府部門與相關人士往往都只會開閉門會議 。






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