Community & Education Hong Kong

Architect at preservation site where wall collapsed enlisted without tender to design controversial Palace Museum

Architect Rocco Yim Sen-kee, the Authorized Person of a revitalization project of the former Central Police Station Compound (CPS), where a wall collapsed last May, was appointed as the Design Architect of West Kowloon Cultural District’s Palace Museum project without tender.

Yim’s architectural firm, Rocco Design Architects Limited, was appointed by the Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) as the Executive Architect and Authorized Person of the CPS project, and will be responsible for the organization and supervision of the construction work. The HKJC contributed HK$1.8 billion to the project in 2007.

rocco yim

Architect Rocco Yim Sen-kee. Photo: Factwire.

Both the HKJC and the Buildings Department (BD) conducted investigations on the wall collapse. BD Officials originally scheduled to complete the report by last December, but the report is yet to be released. Informed sources from the BD told FactWire that they were seeking legal advice from the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Board Chairman of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority (WKCDA) and Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor attended the Hong Kong Palace Museum Public Consultation Exercise Press Conference on Jan 10. She was asked during the conference by John Batten, member of the Selection Committee for operators of the CPS revitalization project, on the reasons why Yim, as the Authorized Person of the CPS project, was still appointed as the Design Architect of the Palace Museum project after the CPS wall collapse on 29 May. Lam replied that there should not be any “unnecessary and unjustified associations”.

carrie lam

Carrie Lam. Photo: Factwire.

Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor stated during the Conference that it was her decision to appoint Yim. She approached Yim last May and later delegated the role of contacting Yim to Duncan Pescod, Chief Executive Officer of WKCDA.

Informed sources from the engineering sector told FactWire that the revitalization project of the CPS is a kind of alteration work of buildings and requires at least one Authorized Person to supervise and endorse the project. With his company as the appointed Executive Architect and as the Authorized Person of the project, Yim should be legally responsible on a certain degree for the wall collapse incident, sources added.

Both the HKJC and the BD carried out investigations regarding the wall collapse of the married quarters of the CPS.

Central police station

The collapsed roof and wall. Photo: Apple Daily.

According to findings of enquiry released by HKJC on November 3, “the only construction work performed to date on the collapsed North Wall was the excavation of 18 holes…to pocket certain steel square box sections into the North Wall …as part of the first floor timber floor strengthening and fire resistance works.” The findings stated that the excavation of the holes is most likely “to have been the immediate cause of the collapse”.

FactWire issued an enquiry to BD officials last year regarding the wall collapse, who replied on 16 November that the investigation report would be completed in December. The official reply reads that “the BD started investigations in multiple directions after the partial collapse of the married quarters for inspectors located in the CPS on 29 May. The BD is anticipated to complete the investigation report by this December.” The report has not been released so far.

mtr palace museum protest

Photo: Melissa Maize.

Sources from the BD told FactWire that the investigation report was almost completed last December, and reached a conclusion which is very much in line with the independent report conducted by the HKJC. Both reports concluded the cause of collapse to be the timber floor strengthening and fire resistance works on the first floor. However, the report is yet to be released as BD officials have to consult the DOJ on the report details.

In response to FactWire enquiry BD spokesman replied that “the report is still in progress and details would be released accordingly”. The DOJ declined in responding due to reasons of confidentiality.

According to the press release of the HKJC, Rocco Design was appointed as the Executive Architect and Authorized Person to the Conservation and Revitalization of the CPS project on 24 March 2009.

Despite the wall collapse incident, Yim was appointed by the Management of WKCDA to start working on the research and design of West Kowloon’s Palace Museum project.

He was later appointed without tender last November to be the Design Architect of the Palace Museum project by the Board of WKCDA, with Lam as the Chairman and former HKJC Chairman Ronald Arculli as the vice-chairman of the Board.

Institute of Architects guidelines

Institute of Architects guidelines. Photo: Factwire.

Timeline of the restoration project of the former Central Police Station compound and West Kowloon Cultural District’s Hong Kong Palace Museum project

11 October 2007

The Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) contributed HK$1.8 Billion to the Conservation and Revitalization of the Central Police Station Compound (CPS) project. Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, the Secretary for Development at that time, thanked the HKJC for the special donation to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the establishment of HKSAR.

24 March 2009

The HKJC announced the appointment of Rocco Design Architects Limited as the Executive Architect to the Conservation and Revitalization of the Central Police Station Compound (CPS) Project.

May 2016

Lam approached Yim and asked whether Yim was interested in participating in the design of the West Kowloon Cultural District’s Palace Museum project.

29 May 2016

The north wall of the former married quarters for inspectors located in the CPS collapsed. Rocco Design was the Executive Architect and the Authorized Person of the project.

June 2016

The WKCDA appointed Yim to conduct research on whether it is feasible for the site, originally planned to build a mega performance venue, to be used as a site for building museum. Rocco Design began the process of museum design, and the project was shrouded in secrecy.

July to August 2016

The WKCDA gave the project the codename “Project P” and began its work. Staff at the WKCDA received information provided by Rocco Design.

October 2016

The HKJC Charities Trust approved a donation of HK$3.5 billion for the Palace Museum project.

31 October 2016

The HKJC completed the findings of enquiry into the partial collapse of former married quarters for inspectors to the public. It states that the excavation of 18 holes in the north wall is most likely to have been the immediate cause of the collapse. The report was referred to the Buildings Department (BD).

October, November 2016

Lam presented the Palace Museum proposal to the Board of WKCDA twice.

28 November 2016

The Board of WKCDA hold a special Board meeting and approved the building of the Hong Kong Palace Museum in the West Kowloon Cultural District, and also appointed Yim as the Design Architect.

December 2016

The BD originally scheduled to complete the investigation report on the wall collapse incident, but the report was not released until now. Sources said that the report was almost completed and it reaches a conclusion similar to the HKJC’s findings.

5 January 2017

The Chief Secretary for Administration’s Office and the WKCDA submitted documents to the House Committee of Legislative Council (LegCo). It explains the reasons for appointing Yim, and states that the appointment “was duly approved by the Board with full justification and authority”.

6 January 2017

Lam attended the Special meeting of the House Committee of LegCo and admitted that appointing Yim was a “relatively special practice”.

10 January 2017

Lam and Yim attended the Hong Kong Palace Museum Public Consultation Exercise Press Conference. Lam was asked during the conference by John Batten, member of the Selection Committee for operators of the CPS revitalization project, on the reasons why after Yim, as the Authorized Person of the CPS project, was still appointed as the Design Architect of the Palace Museum project after the CPS wall collapse on 29 May. Lam replied that there should not be any “unnecessary and unjustified associations”.

Architect at preservation site where wall collapsed enlisted without tender to design controversial Palace Museum