M+ museum building in Hong Kong completed, set to open in 2021

The M+ development in Hong Kong has reached an important milestone, marking the completion of construction of the museum building. With the occupation permit for the museum building obtained on 24 December 2020, M+ is scheduled to open to the public at the end of 2021.

Designed by architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron in partnership with TFP Farrells and Arup, the M+ building is set to become the first global museum of contemporary visual culture in Asia dedicated to collecting, exhibiting, and interpreting visual art, design and architecture, moving image, and Hong Kong visual culture of the 20th and 21st centuries.

The M+ museum is located in Hong Kong's West Kowloon Cultural District on the Victoria Harbour waterfront. Beneath the building site lies the MTR Airport Express and Tung Chung Line. While the pre-existing site condition presents a challenge to design and construction, it has also become “a point of departure for the M+ building,” explained M+ and West Kowloon Cultural District Authority (WKCDA) in their joint statement.

“The excavation around the railway tunnels produced a ‘found space’ that provides an anchor for the building for hosting dynamic and rotating installations. In a remarkable feat of engineering, five mega-trusses - large steel elements encased in concrete frameworks - help support the massive structure and prevent it from bearing down on the tunnels.”

The 65,000 sq-m M+ building houses 17,000 sq m of exhibition space across 33 galleries. It also includes three cinemas, a Mediatheque, a Learning Hub, a research centre, museum shops, restaurants, a tea and coffee bar, a members lounge, and office spaces, plus a roof garden with views of Victoria Harbour.

The podium and tower are united as concrete structures clad in ceramic tiles that reflect the changing conditions of light and weather, standing out from nearby glass and steel skyscrapers, highlighted M+ and WKCDA. “Ceramics also used to provide a localised environmental solution for the M+ building, to protect it from the long-term corrosive effects of heat, humidity, and wind.

“A lightwell inside the building, created by massive cutaways in the floor plates and the skylights, connects basement floors, the ground floor, and the podium level, while offering visitors an immersive experience of the architecture and the museum from above and below.”

According to both partners, museum staff have moved into and started to activate the M+ building and the conservation and storage facility (CSF). Preparations including environmental stabilisation, space fit-outs, the move of permanent collections, and the installation of collection works and objects have also commenced.

Suhanya Raffel, museum director at M+ emphasises the importance of the completion of M+’s construction journey. “This is a major milestone for the museum. As we mark the building completion, our opening preparations are in full swing. We have moved into our permanent home, and I am thrilled to be able to say we can soon welcome visitors from Hong Kong and beyond to M+.”

The M+ building is part of a campus that also includes the CSF and the WKCDA Tower. The CSF is devoted to the conservation, restoration, archiving, and storage of the growing M+ collections. The WKCDA Tower is a 16-storey building that will house the new head office of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority as well as retail, dining, and entertainment facilities.

Betty Fung, acting CEO of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, underscores the significance of the M+ building for both the district and Hong Kong. “I believe that M+ will become one of the most iconic architectural landmarks in Hong Kong and a must-visit cultural landmark for local residents and tourists in the future. The completion of M+, together with that of the Xiqu Centre, Freespace and the Art Park in 2019, marks an important milestone of the West Kowloon Cultural District project, which is moving into an exciting new phase of development.”

The West Kowloon Cultural District is one of the largest and most ambitious cultural projects in the world. Its vision is to create a vibrant new cultural quarter for Hong Kong on 40 ha of reclaimed land located alongside Victoria Harbour. Featuring a varied mix of theatres, performance spaces, and museums, the development will produce and host world-class exhibitions, performances, and cultural events, providing 23 ha of public open space, including a 2-km waterfront promenade.

Photos courtesy of Herzog & de Meuron (Photos 1 - 2 © Virgile Simon Bertrand / Photos 3 - 5 © Kevin Mak)

Video © Fallout Media, Courtesy of M+