This map shows the extent to which it is undeveloped. And notice the extreme change in density of land use!
We attended a cultural event called “Hong Kong Water Works: Memory, Water, Architecture” which was held on the Western Kowloon Water Front Promenade. The multi-media dance performance focused on the intersections of memory, water and architecture and was quite good. The modern art, from gardens to other forms of art were a bit like a very small, rudimentary Grand Rapids ArtPrize.
What was most fascinating was Western Kowloon. You can’t easily get there from anywhere because this area of the city is part of a recent reclamation project that involves the reclamation of a total of 340 hectares of land along the West Kowloon waterfront from Yau Ma Tei to Lai Chi Kok at an estimated cost of HK$12.0 billion.
The West Kowloon Reclamation is the largest reclamation ever undertaken in the urban area — increasing the size of the Kowloon peninsula by one-third and extending the waterfront into the harbour by as much as one kilometer and will eventually have housing for over 100,000 people. This is an incredibly expensive place to live. A 2 or 3 bedroom apartment rents for about 45,000HK a month (more than $6000 U.S.)
The planning for this “new land” began in the mid 1990s and the last phase of the reclamation works was completed in mid 2003. The land is being developed for public and private housing, commercial development, open space, etc. The waterfront site site has been earmarked for a world class integrated arts and cultural district–The West Kowloon Cultural District. A world class cultural district–good place for a cultural event, right? Reclamation and being planned for are the words to remember…
At the center of this area is the Kowloon MTR Station. We couldn’t get to this station, but took the subway to the adjacent station and started to walk in the right direction. By Hong Kong standards, there was nobody around–big new MTR station, wide hallways, shining, and no people. Only 10,000 people come through the station each day because of its odd location and it looks like an airport terminal. In fact it is–you can check in for you flight there and then get a shuttle to the airport.
Someone point us in the direction of the Kowloon MTR Station and again–huge station, connected to a huge mall with wide spaces and few people. Luckily I had printed up the flier so that I asked at several desks about the event and they first looked puzzled, examined the flier, and then pointed in a general direction. Leaving the Kowloon station, we walked out onto an open piece of land that had not been developed–on one side cranes were set up. Karis said it looked like the movie “Walli.” Ahead of us was just scrub land. Behind us was a surreal view that made us feel like we had just walked into a futuristic science fiction film. Out of the scrub land this shining, modern, futuristic development arose. It arose out of this flat, vacant, unpopulated area where we stood. It was an extension of this sense of lack of place and the strangeness of it all was intensified by the fact that the entire area has been recently reclaimed from the ocean.
Yes, we did make it to the event, through the scrub and up to the waterfront. We found the art works, a hooped structure that framed the view to the island in which the dance event took place. Very few people were there. The event did focus on the intersection of water and land. Afterward we went out to eat in the mall with other Fulbrighters, and after another long search for a sense of place and direction, each decided to take taxi cabs home 🙂