M+ by Herzog & de Meuron opens to the public in Hong Kong

Asia’s first global museum of visual culture

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M+, Asia’s first global museum of contemporary visual culture designed by Herzog & de Meuron in the West Kowloon Cultural District of Hong Kong, opens to the public today, 12 November 2021, with three weekends of celebratory programmes for everyone to enjoy.

The opening displays feature M+’s pre-eminent collections of visual art, design and architecture, and moving image from Hong Kong, Greater China, Asia, and beyond. The presentations showcase approximately 1,500 works across thirty-three galleries and other spaces in the museum.

 

Designed Herzog & de Meuron in partnership with TFP Farrells and ARUP , the 65,000-square-metre M+ building is among Hong Kong’s most iconic landmarks, both monumental in its architectural form and radically open in its position in the urban landscape.

 

Located on the Victoria Harbour waterfront, the architecture consists of a striking terracotta tile-clad tower, featuring a dynamic LED media system on the south facade for the display of M+ content, defining the museum’s place within the urban landscape and contributing to the city’s vibrant night-time environment.


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© Virgile Simon Bertrand - Courtesy of Herzog & de Meuron


The horizontal building hovering above an ‘industrial’ landscape houses the more conventional display spaces. As in a city, the arrangement of all the galleries is based on an orthogonal grid. A central plaza provides direct access to the entire exhibition area. This includes not only the temporary exhibitions but also a clearly defined Anchor Room. A tall ‘Focus Gallery’, with two lateral bands of daylight just below the ceiling, rises out of the horizontal exhibition building and plugs into the lower part of the vertical staff and education building. A sequence of galleries is accessed from each of the four corners of the central plaza. A specific space introduces each sequence: an elongated sky-lit gallery, a courtyard with direct access to the roof terrace, a room with extensive glazing towards West Kowloon Art Park and an auditorium facing Victoria Harbour. They distinguish and structure the sequence of exhibition spaces, which can in turn be combined or divided into smaller units by additional third spaces. The galleries themselves may be illuminated from above or from the sides; they may be introverted or extroverted. A variety of precise openings in the facade frame views of the Artist Square, the Art Park and the skyline of Hong Kong Island across the harbour.

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©Edman Choy, Courtesy of Herzog & de Meuron

In the joint between the ‘Found Space’ and the lifted horizontal exhibition building, there is a spacious entrance area for the public. Instead of building a solid object that blocks off access, light and views, this covered area forms a bright, welcoming platform that can be entered from all sides and levels: open and transparent yet shielded from direct sunlight. It is a forum and focal point between the WKCD and the Art Park, the newly built Avenue and Victoria Harbour. Here, visitors encounter all the uses and activities of M+ at a single glance.

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©Kevin Mak - Courtesy of M+, Hong Kong

Specific functions are assigned to each quadrant of the platform. The museum shop is situated in the corner next to Artist Square. The large temporary exhibition space faces the Art Park and is accessible directly from the main platform. Overlooking the waterfront promenade and Victoria Harbour, there is the auditorium on one side, and on the other, the glazed Learning Hub with a public courtyard leading to the rooftop terrace. Ticketing and information desks are located in the centre of the lobby. A broad diagonal opening in the floor of the platform affords a view of the excavated ‘Found Space’, while large ceiling cut-outs allow visitors to see the exhibition level and its intersection with the vertical building as well as a view of open skies. The diaphanous vertical extension of the M+ building is centred on the horizontal slab of exhibition spaces. The two elements form a single entity, fused into the shape of an upside-down T.

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©Kevin Mak - Courtesy of M+, Hong Kong

Built to the height specified in the master plan, this thin and long vertical structure provides research facilities and a curatorial centre where natural filtered daylight and expansive city views make researching, learning and working a special experience. A members’ lounge and public restaurants with panoramic views are housed on its top floors. Integrated into the sun-shading horizontal louvers of the facade facing the harbour, an LED lighting system activates the building as a coarse-grained, oversized display screen for selected or especially commissioned works of art and establishes M+ as part of the Victoria Harbour skyline.

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©Kevin Mak - Courtesy of M+, Hong Kong

The resulting structure is not simply anchored in its surroundings; it is also formed by them. The precise and urban, almost archaic shape reiterates the iconic character of Kowloon’s skyline on one hand, yet on the other hand, this convention is subverted by the transmitted message of the art, visible from afar, which will consequently make M+ a site of constant renewal, rather than being locked into a predefined form.

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©Kevin Mak - Courtesy of M+, Hong Kong


This is a universal place with an inner organization whose openness and transparency make it possible to link the complexities of the content and the space in many different ways. Through its specificity, it becomes a distinctive, singular and unmistakable piece of Hong Kong. But above all, M+ is a public forum, a built platform for the exchange, encounter and activity of people and art.

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Cover photo ©Kevin Mak - Courtesy of M+, Hong Kong

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    Hong Kong Island / Hong Kong / 2021