Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Elsie Ao Ieong U said on Tuesday that the government’s revamped central library, youth centre and conservatory projects will save the Treasury around MOP 1.1 billion (US$137.87 million).
Ao Ieong made the remarks during a presentation session at the Legislative Assembly (AL) for lawmakers about the new Macao Central Library project and the construction plans for other cultural facilities.
The original plan for the Macao Central Library was for it to be built at the Old Courthouse in Nam Van. The former Hotel Estoril plot was originally earmarked for a youth recreational and activities centre, which included a public car park, recreational areas for young people, auditoria, a conservatory, and an all-season swimming pool with a retractable roof.
However, last Thursday, the Cultural Affairs Bureau (IC) announced that the new Macao Central Library will be built on the derelict Hotel Estoril plot in Tap Seac. IC Vice President Leong Wai Man said that the new plan would save the public coffers an estimated MOP 2 billion. She added that the bureau would seek other locations for the youth centre and the conservatory.
Ao Ieong stressed that Leong’s figure was also correct, while the estimated MOP 1.1 billion savings calculation includes the budget for finding a new location for the youth centre and the conservatory. She added that the government was now thinking of having the conservatory in the Zone A land reclamation area.
Ao Ieong said that the rough estimate for the new library was MOP 500 million, adding that the calculation was based on the library’s planned area of 10,000 square metres and how much it would cost to build each square metre. She added that the government would strive to keep within budget and also endeavour to complete the library by 2024.
The now discarded central library project in the Old Courthouse had controversially been budgeted at MOP 900 million.
4 design proposals keep mosaic mural
The four Macau Central Library concept designs by international architects all keep the mosaic mural on Hotel Estoril. Lawmaker Mak Soi Kun asked whether it was necessary to keep the mosaic mural and what was the true meaning behind the mural’s design. Ao Ieong said that art was a subjective thing, adding that different people have different interpretations of the artwork.
IC President Mok Ian Ian said that keeping the mural was suggested but not mandatory for the architecture firms when the bureau asked for concept designs, pointing out that it was a “coincidence” that they all proposed to keep the mosaic mural intact. She also said that “this coincidence” might mean that the four designers all saw the value of the mural.
Loi Chi Pang, who heads the IC Department of Public Library Management, said that the mural not only depicted the artwork’s meaning but also represented how the library inherited its land from Hotel Estoril.
Last Thursday, Loi said that once the new central library opens, the current central library would become a “passive” library mainly storing historical documents, while the new library would have more interactive and “active” facilities.
During the presentation, lawmaker Ip Sio Kai questioned during Tuesday’s two-hour meeting that as the Macao Polytechnic Institute (IPM) is also building a new library, how necessary was it to build a new central library.
Loi responded that in 2016, around 2.5 million people used Macao’s public libraries, while in 2019, 3.3 million people visited the libraries. He added that within three years, there were 800,000 more people visiting the libraries, which showed the demand for libraries.
Loi also noted that there are different types of libraries, including university libraries, common libraries, specialty libraries and central libraries. He pointed out that university libraries mainly accommodate students and academics, while common libraries’ users are mainly working-class or older people, because of which common libraries have fewer books but more newspapers and magazines.
Furthermore, he added, specialty libraries mainly store books of a specific genre, and a central library should be the biggest library in the city, with the most book selections. He said that the current central library did not meet the qualities of a central library.
According to Mok, the bureau is listening to public opinion and would like to add an interactive zone to the future central library for pupils to do arts and crafts or other extra-curricular activities.
Lawmaker Agnes Lam Iok Fong asked how local architects and designers would be involved in the central library project. Leong said that the government asked international architecture firms for concept designs but when executing the project, the international designers would need to coordinate with local companies to understand what the city’s needs and wants are.
When talking about the local involvement in another IC project, the Black Box Theatre, which will be located next to the Macao Cultural Centre, Leong said that the theatre will use the same designer as the Macao Cultural Centre, adding that the bureau had never changed the designer for this project.
Legislators gave a wide range of suggestions and opinions during the presentation. One of the main concerns is the public Estoril (known in Chinese as San Fa Yuen) swimming pool behind the building. Ao Ieong said that there were no plans to rebuild the swimming pool, but the government would arrange with the Sports Bureau (ID) to renovate and renew the pool during the winter.
Ao Ieong stressed that public demand for the pool was high and rebuilding the pool would suspend its operation for four to five years. However, Ao Ieong said she acknowledged that the current pool is only available eight months a year, adding that she would liaise with the Sports Bureau to work out a way to make the pool available all-year-round.
Other legislators showed concerns about the traffic situation, parking and the environmentally friendly aspects of the library design. Ao Ieong said that she would put those concerns into consideration and she welcomed the general public to give the bureau their ideas.
(The Macau Post Daily/Macau News)
PHOTO © Government Information Bureau (GCS)