Creating New Urban Landscapes in Asia
Chapter 4: Hong Kong's dilemmas and the changing fates of West Kowloon Cultural District
Hong Kong is not a place usually associated with rich culture and thriving arts. Instead, it is better known as a centre of commerce, finance and telecommunications. Its recent branding efforts have focused on establishing itself as ‘Asia’s world city’, a positioning ‘designed to highlight Hong Kong’s existing strengths in areas such as financial services, trade, tourism, transport, communications, and as a regional hub for international business and a major city in China’ (Hong Kong Government Information Centre, n.d.). Its 2001 Brand Hong Kong programme, intended as the platform for promoting itself internationally as Asia’s world city, was focused primarily on economic opportunity and entrepreneurship. As a corollary, the programme acknowledged the significance of culture. The focus, however, was on hardware – the plan was to develop ‘world-class cultural infrastructure’ in the form of a new 40-hectare arts district (the West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD), facing the central business district on Hong Kong Island). The plan proclaimed that the district would be a ‘cultural oasis’, designed to ‘enrich the lives of Hong Kong residents, attract visitors from neighbouring cities and enhance even further one of the most beautiful skylines in the world with a new, distinguished landmark’ (Hong Kong Government Information Centre, n.d.). The reference to a ‘cultural oasis’ amounts to a self-acknowledgement of the relative lack of a thriving arts scene in this Special Administrative Region of China.
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