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The M+ Building construction progress as of June 2018. Photo: Herzog & de Meuron.

Top Executives Depart Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Cultural District Project

The West Kowloon Cultural District, a long-delayed, multibillion-dollar government development project that aims to turn nearly one hundred acres of landfill in Hong Kong into an international arts destination, may be further stalled following the resignation of five top executives overseeing the initiative. The South Morning China Post reports that the members of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority plan to step down between now and the fall.

As a result, the opening of Freespace, a black-box theater at the center of the district’s Art Park and the M+ museum of visual culture, which were supposed to open years ago, may be postponed again. Freespace was expected to open in April. However, the authority is now saying that it will be inaugurated on June 14 and 15 with a performance by Christian Rizzo as part of its pre-opening program. While the M+ museum failed to open in 2017 and is still under construction today, its website states that it will open in 2020. At a launch party for the Venice Biennale on Tuesday, a representative of the authority said that it would definitely be open by May 2021.

The officials leaving include chief technology officer Emily Chan, development director Julian Marland, commercial director Christian Wright, head of technical development Pail Henning, and executive director in charge of performance arts Louis Yu Kwok-lit. In response, the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority’s director Duncan Pescod told the South Morning China Post that it “has a robust human resources management and succession plan in place to ensure a smooth transition whenever there is staff movement.”

While the employees may be swiftly replaced, current staff members worry about lingering frustrations over the delays and other setbacks with the project. The only building completed in the district is the Xiqu Center, a Bing Thom–designed Cantonese opera house that opened its doors to the public in January. An exhibition of Ducky Tse’s photographs documenting the construction of the venue is currently on view in the center’s atrium.

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