Bing Thom Architects and local firm Ronald Lu to Build HK$2.7 Billion Opera House

December 10th, 2012

Vancouver-based Bing Thom Architects and local firm Ronald Lu have beaten out rival studios headed by Norman Foster and Moshe Safdie to build a HK$2.7 billion ($348 million) Chinese opera house in Hong Kong.


Known as the Xiqu Centre, it’s scheduled for completion in 2016 and will be the first of 17 cultural and entertainment venues at the HK$23.5 billion West Kowloon Cultural District to open. The preliminary design features a spherical theater that appears to float above an atrium. The exterior covering of the structure appears to undulate as if it were a theater curtain.

“We wanted to use contemporary architecture to display a very traditional art form,” Thom said at a West Kowloon Cultural District Authority press conference today.

The authority also announced a short list of six firms vying to build M+, Hong Kong’s future museum for modern and contemporary Asian art.


Herzog & de Meuron from Switzerland with TFP Farrells ofLondon, Snohetta AS of Norway, Renzo Piano of Italy, Japan’s Toyo Ito & Associates, Architects and Benoy Ltd., Shigeru Ban and Thomas Chow Architects, and Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa/SANAA were shortlisted.


Star Architects

“This is one of the most amazing architectural competition lists in a long time,” said Lars Nittve, executive director of M+. “Some are old hands at building museums, others come with other types of experience.”

Also known as the Museum of Visual Culture, M+ will house 20th- and 21st-century art, design, architecture, video and sound installations.

M+ is intended to be Hong Kong’s answer to the Centre Pompidou in Paris or the Guggenheim in Bilbao, and will address the longstanding complaint that Hong Kong remains something of a cultural desert.

The museum will anchor the government-backed, 40-hectare (98.8 acres) project that will include 23 hectares of green space built on reclaimed land across from Hong Kong island.

After more than a decade of delays, West Kowloon finally started moving forward in March 2011 when a master plan byFoster + Partners was chosen.

M+ has received about HK$6 billion from the government, of which HK$4 billion is for construction and another HK$1.7 billion to build an art collection and cover costs such as storage.

Planned exhibition space will total around 17,000 square meters, more than twice that of Tate Modern, in part because much Chinese contemporary art is “space hungry,” Nittve said in August.

To contact the writer on the story: Frederik Balfour, in Hong Kong, at or on Twitter @frederikbalfour.