West Kowloon Cultural District, Hong Kong

The West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD) is a development project that aims to form an international-grade arts and culture hub. Stretching across 40 hectares of reclaimed land, the West Kowloon Cultural District is one of the largest cultural projects in the world, blending art, education and open space. Its vision is to create a vibrant cultural quarter for Hong Kong where the local arts scene can interact, develop and collaborate. Providing 23 hectares of public open space with two kilometres of vibrant harbour-front promenade it will also include a variety of arts and cultural facilities that will produce and host world-class exhibitions, performances and arts and cultural events.

The West Kowloon Cultural District is the largest arts and cultural project in Hong Kong to date. Comprising 40 hectares, the district will include 17 core arts and cultural venues as well as space for arts education. This includes a flagship museum of contemporary visual culture. Located at the wedge-shaped waterfront reclaimed land west of Yau Ma Tei, the district will feature a new museum of visual culture, numerous theatres, concert halls and other performance venues under the management of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, which is directly financed by the government with an upfront endowment of HK$21.6 billion for construction and operation.

The West Kowloon Cultural District Authority (WKCDA) is currently adopting a pragmatic approach to implement the project, which would deliver the West Kowloon Park and core arts and cultural facilities of the project under three batches.

Opened in July 2015, the temporary Nursery Park is located at the Northwest part of the WKCD site, where originally planned to be the location for a Mega Performance Venue and an Exhibition Centre.

The Nursery Park features a few lawns, a pet zone and is a testing ground for plants in the future park. The Nursery Park is where Freespace Happening, the WKCDA regular event, takes place.

The park includes M+ Pavilion, Freespace and The Lawn. Designed by Dennis Lau & Ng Chun Man Architects & Engineers (Hong Kong) with West 8 (Netherlands) and ACLA (Hong Kong), the park is targeted to open in phases from 2017 to 2018.

Designed by VPANG + JET + Lisa Cheung, the M+ Pavilion is the first completed permanent venue in the WKCD. The pavilion provides exhibition space for M+ before the completion of the nearby museum building.

The pavilion is inaugurated with the exhibition ‘Nothing’ by Hong Kong artist Tsang Kin-Wah in September 2016.

Freespace will provide a black box theatre that can accommodate standing and seated programmes, a large lawn where an outdoor stage can be set up for festivals and events, and a foyer lounge. Freespace is scheduled to open in 2019.

The M+ Museum will focus on four elements – design, popular culture, moving images and visual art.

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In June 2010 it was announced that the executive director of the museum will be Lars Nittve. Nittve was the founder director of the Tate Modern in London. He took up his new post in January 2011 for a three-year term. Early in his tenure he promises to liaise with local arts stakeholders to overcome his admitted unfamiliarity with the Hong Kong arts scene.

In July 2012, Uli Sigg announced a donation of his 1,463-work collection of contemporary Chinese art, valued at $163 million, which is planned to serve as the centrepiece of the M+’s new collection when it opens in 2017. The museum bought 47 other works for $23 million.

In 2013, the Pritzker Prize-winning architectural team Herzog & de Meuron and TFP Farrells was chosen to design the $642 million museum, beating out competitors who included Renzo Piano and Toyo Ito. The horizontal section of the T-shaped building will offer 183,000 square feet of exhibition space, while the vertical bar, devoted to offices, storage and education, is to have an LED lighting system that can showcase artwork.

The Lyric Theatre Complex will be the major performing art venue in the WKCD. The Complex comprises a 1,450 seat theatre, a 600 seat medium theatre. and a 250 seat studio theatre. A Resident Company Centre and extensive rehearsal facilities will be situated in the Complex as well.

Hong Kong Palace Museum
On 23 December 2016, Carrie Lam, the chair of WKCDA, has announced in Beijing that the southern part of the original land for the Mega Performance Venue and Exhibition Centre will be built a new Hong Kong Palace Museum. Occupying around 10,000 square metres, the floor area of the new Palace Museum is estimated at 30,500 square metre, housing two exhibition galleries, activity rooms, a 400-seat lecture theatre, souvenir shops and restaurants. The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust will donate HKD$ 3.5 billion for the design, construction and exhibition preparation works of the museum. Rocco Yim, a Hong Kong architect, is commissioned to design the Palace Museum. The foundation and construction works is expected to begin in 2017, and the museum is estimated to be open in 2022.

Mega Performance Venue (MPV) and Exhibition Centre:
The MPV was planned as a performance venue with 15,000 seats. The board of West Kowloon Cultural District Authority has decided that site of the current Nursery Park will not be the MPV. The authority is now considering to develop the northern part of this coastal land as a middle-sized multipurpose venue for exhibition, convention and performance through private finance initiative.

West Kowloon Waterfront Promenade:
Part of the site is used as a temporary promenade (West Kowloon Waterfront Promenade) managed by Leisure and Cultural Services Department, which can be accessed immediately to the east of Western Harbour Crossing toll booths, or via a pedestrian entrance close to the bus station to the west of the toll booths. Bicycles are available for hire, intended for riding along a short waterfront cycle track, which will be removed when the site is developed.

West Kowloon Bamboo Theatre:
On 18–24 January 2012, the West Kowloon Bamboo Theatre was held at the junction of Canton Road and Austin Road West (the future site of the Xiqu Centre). It was the first cultural event organised by WKCDA to mark the launch of the design and construction stage of the district. The event was a combination of traditional Cantonese opera, contemporary visual art installations and film shows in collaboration with the Chinese Artist Association of Hong Kong and various renowned visual artists, attracted around 12,000 participants in 7 days.

WKCDA plans to make the Bamboo Theatre an annual event, extending the period to three weeks in 2013 to include other forms of performing arts including contemporary Chinese music and dance performances.

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