West Kowloon, Hong Kong
West Kowloon Cultural District Authority
Sylvia Chan, Yannis Chan, Giulia Foscari, Alain Fouraux, Alexander Giarlis, Ekaterina Golovatyuk, Inge Goudsmit, Ravi Kamisetti, Michael Kokora, Barend Koolhaas, Janice Kwok, Katja Lam, Michelle Lam, Jedidiah Lau, Miranda Lee, Brigitta Lenz, Brendan McGetrick, Betty Ng, Stephan Petermann, Roberto Requejo, Benny Tam
CULTURAL ADVISOR: Michael Schindhelm, Jiang Jun, Hou Hanru, Scott Lash, Stan Lai, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Douglas Young, Ole Bouman | FEASIBILITY: McKinsey & Co., Hong Kong | ENGINEER: Arup, Hong Kong | URBANISM: Urbanus, RAD | LANDSCAPE DESIGN: Inside Outside | SUSTAINIBITLITY: Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics | SCENOGRAPHY: dUCKS scéno | GRAPHIC DESIGN: Irma Boom | VIDEO, 3D | INTERACTIVE: yU+co [lab], Asia Art Archive | MODELS: RJ Models | PHOTOGRAPHY: Guy Bertrand, Kwan Yiu Cheung, Tse Chi Tak | WEBSITE: GoPublic
The West Kowloon Cultural District confronts OMA with the task of turning an overwhelming governmental ambition, with a bewildering diversity of stakeholders, translated in a massive amount of real estate with an incredible richness of program, into a proposal that is fun and serious, planned and spontaneous, large but intimate, Chinese but international, iconic but practical, understandable yet surprising. To avoid the shock of imposing overwhelming change, OMA has chosen as the main model of the project a typology with which every citizen of Hong Kong is familiar: the Village.
A strong and recognisable identity in itself, the typology of the village liberates the project from an obligation to express the identity of each individual element of WKCD as 'iconic' at the expense of all the others. The sheer quantity of institutions in WKCD would trigger an iconoclash, a sterile battle of the 'unique'. The village enables OMA to absorb the massive scale of WKCD into manageable portions that in themselves resist delusions of grandeur and neutralise the threat of an alienating confrontation between the 'old' and 'new' Kowloon.
The excess vitality of Kowloon will be the lifeblood of the West Kowloon Cultural District. Without this lifeline, WKCD will remain anaemic, whatever its size or beauty. It is crucial that the current frantic atmosphere of trading is not replaced by the plastic perfection of contemporary public space. At the same time, it is crucial to enliven the existing streetscape with outposts of WKCD - galleries, studios, workshops, theatre rehearsal spaces - so that Kowloon and WKCD will eventually merge into a single, hyper-diverse community.
OMA's three villages each have a strong emphasis on vibrant street life and cultural production where all aspects of the creative process - from education to rehearsal to production to performance - are nurtured and made visible.
Art in the east
Having had the courage to avoid the museum franchise model, the excitingly named M+ (who thought of it?) has the opportunity to implement the most creative thinking of the current moment. The building is interpreted as a barcode with overlapping bands of visual art, design, film, and popular culture - creating interface, exposure and connections between the various disciplines. By embedding M+ within a larger Art Factory, OMA suggests moving beyond the traditional division of display and back-of-house museum functions: research, production, conservation, education, together with studios, a hotel, housing, and artist galleries will be integrated and visible throughout M+. Beneath M+, the Exhibition Centre is a venue for auctions and conventions, a further intermingling of culture and commerce. M+ links to Kowloon Park and to the surrounding neighbourhood with pedestrian bridges - one of them an extension of the park, one an extension of the museum itself - into Jordan and to Temple Street, and across Canton Road to an outpost of the museum in Victoria Towers.
Market in the Middle
As a continuation of Kowloon's street markets, the Middle Village contains small-scale entertainment, local shops, restaurants, street markets, and galleries. The Middle Village is flanked by venues that accommodate Cantonese performance in both traditional and modern forms: a Xiqu Theatre (and a Xiqu school) to the west, and a premiere movie theatre celebrating Hong Kong's film industry to the east.
Performance in the west
With views over the water and Victoria Harbour, the focal point of Theatre Village is the Universal Theatre, a network of four interconnected and diverse performance spaces: chamber music theatre, street theatre, grand theatre and a concert hall. Each venue is embedded in a single, continuous outdoor lobby stretching the length of the village. Below the lobby, the public can tour the shared rehearsal, production and technical spaces for all four theatres. The theatre village is a place where production and rehearsal mixes with training in dance, music and acting. There are shops that specialize in music and musical instruments, and there are restaurants and cafés where the public mixes with the professionals.
Mega Performance Venue
Located in parkland between the West and Middle Villages, the Mega Performance Venue is an open-air amphitheatre based on the ancient Greek and Roman model. It seats 15,000 people for large scale entertainment ranging from pop concerts to New Year's celebrations with views over Hong Kong Island as its natural backdrop.
Park of the New Horizon
The villages are embedded in a single park, which connects with Kowloon Park via a planted green bridge to form the public green space in Hong Kong. WKCD's Park of the New Horizon offers, above all, a space liberated from the commercial, and also from the wealth of interdictions that disfigure and inhibit Hong Kong's open space. OMA draws from tropical agriculture and the fishponds of the Mai Po wetlands not only as a repertoire of species and cultivation methods, but as a mechanism for organizing communal action. Forest gardens, orchards, ponds, meadows, and even communal urban farming are all connected by paths for pedestrians and cyclists.
An unsolicited part of the project is a cultural masterplan: a collaboration with experts from the cultural and financial worlds, based on a debriefing of Hong Kong's stakeholders. The cultural masterplan describes the steps needed before, during, and after WKCD's physical realization. It is a parallel construction effort to establish a creative milieu that can fully 'inhabit' WKCD and make it come alive.
Hong Kong is a city known for finance, not for culture. But, ironically, a large part of mankind would cite Hong Kong as the preeminent example of an intense urban culture. Above all, our project wants to maintain, and add to, Hong Kong's urban life.