It’s about time! Work finally starts at cultural centre project

It’s about time! Work finally starts at cultural centre project

Ground-breaking for first facility Xiqu Centre at West Kowloon

Work has finally started on the first facility for the government’s showcase project, the West Kowloon Cultural District, fifteen years after it was first mooted.

The West Kowloon Cultural District Authority held a ground-breaking ceremony on Tuesday for the Xiqu Centre which will be used for performances of Chinese opera on completion in 2016.

The centre, budgetted at HK$2.5 billion, will have a gross floor area of over 23,700 square metres (255,107 square feet) over seven storeys and two basement levels.

Among the planned facilities in the centre are a main theatre with 1,100 seats, a tea house, arts education facilities, external performance space and retail and dining areas.

The centre is located at the junction of Canton Road and Austin Road West, immediately north of Tsim Sha Tsui Fire Station.

Shovels at the ready - Chief Secretary for Administration and also Chairman of the Board of the West Kowloon Cultural Authority Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor (sixth from left) officiates at the ground breading ceremony for the Xiqu Centre  (Danny Chung)

Shovels at the ready – Chief Secretary for Administration and also Chairman of the Board of the West Kowloon Cultural Authority Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor (sixth from left) officiates at the ground breading ceremony for the Xiqu Centre (Danny Chung)

Speaking to the press afterwards, authority chief executive officer Michael Lynch said the authority was working hard to develop the other facilities for the cultural district.

“Like Rome, it just doesn’t happen in a day,” Lynch said.

The cultural district project has been beset by delays by concerns over design and huge construction and operating costs since the project was first proposed by the-then Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa in 1998.

The authority is now looking to supplement the HK$21.6 billion endowment approved by the Legislative Council in 2008, Lynch said, with corporate sponsorship and philanthropic gifts.

The authority had no figure in mind for the additional funding although executive director for performing arts Louis Yu Kwok-lit said: “Of course, the more the better.”

Lynch said the first batch of facilities, which also includes the M+ museum, would be delivered within budget.

He pointed out that apart from the endowment, land was also provided to the authority by the government.

“They have given us the most valuable piece of real estate in the world,” Lynch said.

According to a paper submitted to the Legislative Council in early July, the authority said the latest “ballpark estimate” of construction cost for the whole project was about HK$47.1 billion, more than double the HK$21.6 billion endowment.

Authority executive director for project delivery Chan Man-wai said the contract sum for the foundation work, which was awarded to French specialist contractor Bachy Soletanche, was less than HK$100 million.

The Xiqu Centre for performances of Chinese opera is slated for completion in 2016. The entrance to the building is designed to resemble the curtain of a theatre stage  (Photo courtesy of BTA & RLP Company Limited and West Kowloon Cultural District Authority)

The Xiqu Centre for performances of Chinese opera is slated for completion in 2016. The entrance to the building is designed to resemble the curtain of a theatre stage (Photo courtesy of BTA & RLP Company Limited and West Kowloon Cultural District Authority)

The authority has just started inviting expressions of interest from contractors for the superstructure works, which would also include the basement levels.

A shortlist of contractors for tender would be compiled early next year with awarding of tender sometime in the second quarter.

“I think April/May,” Chan said.

The Building Authority approved the building plans, drawn up by a joint venture of Bing Thom Architects and Ronald Lu & Partners, for the Xiqu Centre in July.

Renowned British architect firm Foster + Partners won a design competition in 2011 for the master plan for the cultural district, the second time it has done so after the first master plan was eventually scrapped due to concerns over cost.

While the government and the authority were basking in the good vibes generated by the Xiqu Centre, one construction industry observer remained sceptical about the whole project.

“Probably the only thing that will be built while they wrangle over the rest,” he quipped.

Danny Chung

 

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