West Kowloon Reclamation Concept Plan Competition

Speech by Lord Rothschild, GBE, Chairman of the Jury,
at a Press Conference held at 3.45 pm on 28 February 2002
at the Central Government Offices, Hong Kong,
announcing the winning entries to the Competition

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to be here with you today on such an important occasion. I am privileged to have been asked to serve as Chairman of this distinguished Jury.

The main purpose of the International Jury that the Hong Kong Government assembled was to choose a scheme for the West Kowloon Reclamation Project of such interest and distinction that it would establish Hong Kong as a true world-class city of arts and culture.

May I thank the Secretary for Planning and Lands, Mr John C Tsang for his help and support. The Jury would like to express its appreciation to him for having given us a remarkable opportunity.

We saw as a key objective a scheme which would create an unmistakable architectural symbol for Hong Kong, an image recognized throughout the world.

We could never have accomplished our goal without the immense help we have received at every stage from the Hong Kong Government - both politicians and officials believe passionately in the development of the West Kowloon site.

One measure of the success of the competition is that no less than 161 architecture and planning practices submitted schemes : 90 from overseas, 71 locally. This was a tremendous response.

Let me say something about the process.

In keeping with Hong Kong policy, the Competition was open to all qualified participants and the applicants were anonymous to the Jury. In fact no member of the Jury knew the individual identity of the winning schemes until noon today, although we made our choice yesterday.

After much deliberation and thought throughout this week the Jury overwhelmingly concluded that we had found the entry most likely to deliver the key objectives we were seeking. Altogether we are awarding 5 prizes; I would like to start by showing the schemes of the 3 Honourable Mentions and the Runner-Up.

Here are brief comments on the 3 honourable mention schemes:

Jewel Scheme

A team led by Professor Minoru TAKEYAMA

The Jury awarded an honourable mention to this entry for its elegant and well-balanced simplicity and the appropriate distinctions it draws between cultural and commercial uses.

West End Scheme

A joint team led by Mr Alan MACDONALD, Urbis-LPT (Architects) Association

This honourable mention was notable for the manner in which it provided a "fieldscape" of a fine grain of individual buildings, landscapes and public spaces. This feature is intended to create a vibrant congenial area of individual galleries and theatres on a par with the lively West End area of London.

New Leaf Scheme

A team led by Mr Rocco Sen Kee YIM

An honourable mention from the Jury was given to this entry for its innovative design, and the unifying feature of a circulation spine connecting and providing access to all the many activities on the site. This design also took great advantage of a multi-level urban promenade along the waterfront. It also proposed an upbeat, media-oriented image and took explicit advantage of the site's location and public outlook back towards central Hong Kong. All in all, a very lively and compelling solution.

I will now tell you briefly about the scheme of the Runner-Up.

2nd Prize

A team led by Mr Philip Y K LIAO

This submission has immense energy and dynamism in its bold horizontal architectural forms and is well suited to the vibrant nature of Hong Kong. It has many interesting ideas. Imaginative contouring of the site produces a waterfront park and green oases within the landscape. The extensive use of water-pools, waterfalls and mists - as a landscape element - is prevalent throughout the master plan and culminates in a spinal waterway running the length of the scheme area, effectively bringing a part of Victoria Harbour onto the site.

Now, let me turn finally to the winning scheme.

1st Prize

A team led by Foster and Partners

The Jury felt that this submission, more than any other, fulfilled the purpose of the competition. The signature feature of the design, a great canopy, "flows over the various spaces contained within the development" area to create a unique iconic landmark. The canopy employs the latest design and construction techniques and creates under its dramatically fluid form a great spatial volume to accommodate open park spaces shared with individual cultural, residential and commercial buildings.

The master plan takes full advantage of the prime waterfront location and its proximity to Kowloon Park and the Canton Road retail district. The sinuously flowing form of the site contours and the canopy produce a memorable effect. The lagoon, though a relatively weak point in the design, in the opinion of the Jury, might easily be redesigned, without affecting the arts and cultural facilities encircling it or detracting from the overall excellence of the scheme.

The primary components of the design include a cultural hub of auditoria, museums, galleries and performance venues as well as a dense collection of shops, bars and retail spaces. The multitude of proposed uses lends a great vitality to the scheme. A continuous promenade along the smooth curvature of the waterfront simply enhances further the attraction of the scheme and its possibilities for development both for cultural purposes and retail and commercial uses.

The construction of the large roof structure is similar in concept to certain international air and rail terminals constructed in recent years and would create an unmistakable landmark for Hong Kong. The horizontality of the scheme contrasts well with the predominant verticality of the city behind.

The Jury felt that this bold and the carefully analyzed scheme was the deserving winner of the competition and would be a major tourist attraction. It would symbolize the community's vision of their city as a future world centre of arts and culture and realize that vision with great style.

There are three questions which I am sure will be paramount in your minds. First what will the winning scheme cost? Two, who will pay for it? And Three, what will be the benefits?

Let me stress that the scheme presented will need extensive development this will take place over the next few months. The details of competition submissions will be made available to you over this period. The submissions will be the subject of a public exhibition.

On costs. The winning scheme estimated preliminary construction costs at 24 billion HK$. The scheme calculates that recurring annual revenues would generate roughly 2.5 billion HK$.

Who will pay for all this?

The project represents unique opportunities to operate a range of public and private facilities within one development in a way that the entire development could function in a seamless and integrated manner.

How this will be achieved must be for the Government of Hong Kong and the private sector to devise.

Finally, who will benefit? We have seen on a number of occasions over the last few years, how a cultural and architectural landmark of integrity and distinction can bring about dramatic economic and regenerative benefits to a place, to tourism, and to the people who live there. Bilbao comes to mind so does the impact in London of the Tate Modern Museum in the previously run-down area of the South Bank. Looking back, we can but recall the phenomenal effect of the Centre-Pompidou in Paris.

I would be surprised if a development on this scale and of such quality on the West Kowloon site would not have a dramatic impact for Hong Kong and the people who live here and those who will visit this already wonderful city.

Let me end by thanking my colleagues on the Jury, Mr Bill Lacy and Mr I M Pei, our Professional Advisors, and the staff of the Planning and Lands Bureau.

I would now like to relinquish the podium to a member of the Jury who lives here, for the last word. I am going to ask Mrs. Selina Chow, Chairman of the Tourism Board, to express her feelings about the project and its benefit to the community.

Thank you very much!