2 Dec 2009
Urban Design in Spotlight at Annual Bilateral Plenary
Fifth Session of Hong Kong-France Business Partnership
2 December 2009 – Urban design issues dominated the Hong Kong-France Business Partnership’s fifth Plenary Session, which took place today in Hong Kong. The Plenary’s theme, “Shaping a City’s Future through Art, Design and History,” guided everything from the Plenary programme and discussions to the venue itself: The Pawn, located in a 19th century shop house, is now a popular Wan Chai restaurant and bar.
The Plenary’s Hong Kong Guest of Honour, Secretary for Development Carrie Lam, outlined the Hong Kong Government’s “Conserving Central” plan. Introduced by the Chief Executive in his 2009-2010 Policy Address, it calls for the conservation and revitalisation of seven historic building clusters and a harbourfront site in Hong Kong’s Central district.
French Design Welcome
Urban Renewal Authority Chairman Barry Cheung, charged with redeveloping, restoring and conserving Hong Kong buildings, also addressed the Plenary. He focused on The Pawn, the first significant success story in the URA’s revitalisation of a traditional Hong Kong shop house for commercial use. Noting the many Hong Kong buildings needing rehabilitation as well as conserving, he “welcomed the participation of French architects and designers.”
Carrie Yau, Permanent Secretary for Home Affairs, talked about the development of Hong Kong’s cultural facilities and outlined plans for the West Kowloon Cultural District. Calling it “a colossal project,” she told the plenary that “we’ve got to make it right.” Ms Yau invited French architects and designers to take part in bidding for the various projects that the West Kowloon Cultural District would create.
Paris vs Hong Kong
Elsa Martayan-Dreyfus, Programme Director at Paris City Hall, compared heritage development in Paris and Hong Kong. “Paris already has a range of tools to protect monuments and heritage buildings,” she said, adding that the first such law was passed almost a century ago. Today, she said, “80 per cent of the surface of Paris is more or less protected.” Ms Martayan-Dreyfus said Paris has much to share with Hong Kong in the adaptive use of heritage buildings. But she added that Paris would welcome Hong Kong’s “high-rise and iconic buildings’ expertise.”
The Plenary’s keynote luncheon speaker was Alan Lo, whose company owns The Pawn. Following the luncheon, Hong Kong and French committee members took part in a heritage walking tour of Central.
France in Hong Kong
French Guest of Honour, Bruno Durieux, President of the French Foreign Trade Advisors National Committee, said that the French delegation this year was the largest yet to take part in a Partnership plenary. French Partnership Chair Jean Lemierre said that this was because French business was increasingly seeing the value of Hong Kong as the gateway to doing business in the Chinese mainland.
The Consul General of France in Hong Kong Marc Fonbaustier said that a French architectural mission was scheduled to visit Hong Kong in the coming year to explore opportunities in the creative industries, including the West Kowloon Cultural District project.
He added that two other events in Hong Kong this week, HKTDC Inno Design Tech Expo and Business of Design Week, both feature France as partner country. “It would be wise for international designers to create partnerships with Hong Kong designers because, for China, Hong Kong dominates in design,” said Mr Fonbaustier.
Hong Kong Chair David Lie said that the Partnership had “evolved into an effective business-to-business platform of real benefit to all concerned. The future looks bright, for our two economies and for the Partnership.” Mr Lie thanked the Partnership’s Secretariat – the Hong Kong Trade Development Council and UBIFRANCE – for their continuing efforts and said that the sixth Plenary Session of the Partnership would take place next year in Paris.
The Hong Kong-France Business Partnership was established in 2005 to promote trade, investment and business cooperation between French and Hong Kong companies.
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Victor George Paddy
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About the HKTDC
Established in 1966, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) is the international marketing arm for Hong Kong-based traders, manufacturers and service providers. With more than 40 offices worldwide, including 11 in the Chinese mainland, the HKTDC promotes Hong Kong as a platform for doing business with China and Asia. The HKTDC also organises trade fairs and business missions to connect companies with opportunities in Hong Kong and the mainland, while providing information via trade publications, research reports and online. For more information, www.hktdc.com