West Kowloon Cultural District Project: The Times Museum, OMA/AMO / Guangzhou, China; Rotterdam, The Netherlands, New York, United States
Kowloon Cultural District is a project of such scale and ambition that it could define the nature of the public realm in the 21st century – beyond the standard developers' categories of entertainment,retail, hotels... The 40-hectare waterfront site for WKCD, facing Victoria Harbour and adjacent to a future high-speed rail connection with mainland China, will include a 'Museum+' – a place for future museological experimentation – an exhibition centre, multiple theatres, concert halls, and other cultural venues, all integrated with abundant public space.
The city's intention is to establish itself as a global centre for the arts to compensate for Hong Kong's loss of status as the singular financial centre of the Far East. In our conceptual plan, OMA articulates this cultural ambition in terms of making WKCD a city in itself – flexible, absorbing, functional, surprising – and integrated with and sustained by the existing urban intelligence of Kowloon and Hong Kong at large. We want to resist the normal compulsion to make a sweeping gesture that defines the identity of a site and separates it from the rest of the city. The enormity of the WKCD mandate enables us to imagine a diversity of conditions ranging from the experimental to the popular. Elements in the masterplan – which could include more than purely cultural facilities – will be arranged to stimulate tensions, polarities, and contrasts – the essence of the urban experience.
The institutions within WKCD could have a similar fertile mixture of programs, for example eliminating traditional boundaries between art and science, the city and the museum. It is no coincidence that some of the most exciting productions in the arts in the 20th and 21st centuries have taken place in spaces not designed for them. We will consider public space in WKCD not as residue –merely the spaces between architecture – but as substance, and as potential venue. WKCD should not be a monolithic entity imposed on the city but a regime that stimulates cultural activities and spaces throughout Hong Kong – the project must be porous like a sponge, not hermetic like a bubble. The conceptual plan calls for the cultivation of early events and programs (which can be executed faster than architecture), as a means of building momentum and desire for the realization of WKCD, which, by that time, will be embedded in a thriving city-wide cultural infrastructure.