International Development Planning Review

City-branding without content: Hong Kong's aborted West Kowloon mega-project, 1998–2006

International Development Planning Review (2008), 30, (3), 215–226.

Abstract

After much debate, in February 2006 the proposed West Kowloon cultural development project – a kind of cultural flagship initiative put forward by the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to develop a landmark for the purposes of city-branding, place-promotion and promoting culture – was shelved, at least temporarily. Though a consultative committee was appointed by the government on 6 April to mark its re-launch, the twists and turns are surely lessons for future efforts at city-branding and place-marketing. The proposal was a typical package of urban entrepreneurialism, with an emphasis on chasing after mega-projects, iconic buildings and media visibility. But it avoided questions concerning the substance of the entire project, consensus from below and the vision of cultural development. Its failure shows that, without addressing these basic questions, city competition by means of developing global architecture, mega-projects and fabricated urban culture is inevitably futile.

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Lui, Tai-lok