While heritage and history are huge components in Hong Kong’s current cultural moment, so is its geography – namely its harbour and reclaimed waterfront. The poster child for this is the West Kowloon Cultural District, which, when completed, will be one of the biggest arts districts in the world. The long-term project is in the process of transforming an amazing 40 hectares of prime harbourfront space into various museums, galleries, performing arts centres, green spaces and a theatre.
Under the clear blue skies of summer, the views from the vast site overlooking the world-famous skyline of Hong Kong Island are stunning. Visitors rent bikes, kick back on the grassy lawns and discover the Art Park, one of the project’s first elements to partially open. The Art Park is the green heart of the cultural district, featuring a rich variety of trees and open lawn spaces and also playing host to Freespace – due to open in 2019 – which will house a black box theatre and outdoor performance area for all to enjoy.
The jewel in the crown will undoubtedly be M+, currently the world’s largest art museum under construction. Slated to open at the end of 2020, its offerings will span the disciplines of design, architecture, moving image and visual art. Until then, though, executive director Suhanya Raffel, a renowned museum specialist and former director of collections at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, is busy with the striking M+ Pavilion, open since 2016 and a space that serves as “a laboratory, allowing M+ to bring ideas to the public”.
Raffel is unequivocal about the potential positive impacts of M+ on the arts scene. “Hong Kong needs a global museum with international collections framed by our location and M+ brings this much-needed perspective,” she says.
Also in Kowloon, just 3km east of the M+ site, is Victoria Dockside in Tsim Sha Tsui. The upcoming arts and culture destination, built on the site of early-20th-century shipping hub Holt’s Wharf and New World Centre in the 1980s, spans a total of 28 hectares and will cost a grand total of US$2.6 billion to build. The mixed-use concept will include green spaces, design-minded workspace K11 Atelier and various exciting arts and lifestyle outlets.
“Hong Kong needs a global museum with international collections framed by our location and M+ brings this much-needed perspective”
As of now, Victoria Dockside’s most prominent project is the 413-room Rosewood Hong Kong hotel, the hospitality brand’s first foray into the Hong Kong market that opens this winter. Rosewood Hotel Group CEO Sonia Cheng is confident that Victoria Dockside will become a new epicentre of culture for the city, reflecting contemporary Hong Kong’s dynamism, creativity and unique history.
“We are excited that the development is a bellwether for the regeneration of the Kowloon waterfront and an exciting chapter for Hong Kong’s urban development story within a progressive cultural context,” says Cheng.
That progressive cultural context is overwhelmingly evident everywhere you turn in Hong Kong these days. And with many aspects of these projects opening in stages, the momentum will be felt in the city for years to come.
– PHOTOGRAPHY BY CALVIN SIT
– ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ANNA CUMMINS
This article was originally published in the September 2018 issue of SilverKris magazine