by Dilpreet BhullarJun 16, 2021
Designed by Herzog & de Meuron, M+ museum is conceptualised as a cultural centre for 20th and 21st century art, design, architecture, and the moving image. It has been designed to adapt to the entire spectrum of spaces, displays, and activities related to exhibiting and viewing material from all these sectors. Having won the competition in 2012-2013, the structure of the museum is now complete. The museum galleries include conventional white cubes, flexible spaces, screening rooms, and a specially requested Industrial Space. Still an empty shell, the museum is now working towards installing its permanent collection and is slated to welcome visitors by the end of 2021.
Located in Hong Kong, on what used to be a seaport, the museum of visual culture sits on a reclaimed land. This was an aspect the architects wished to address asking, “What can lend authenticity to reclaimed land?” Another interesting aspect of the site was the underground tunnel for the Airport Express. Initially a challenge, today the railway tunnel running under the museum plot has become a raison d'être of the project. Uncovering the tunnel opened up endless spatial possibilities and earned itself the moniker ‘Found Space’. The structure, both physically and conceptually, responds to the site. The Found Space opens up the possibility for large-scale exhibitions that challenge both artists and curators to respond to the space. It also anchors the entire building in the ground and ties together the L-shaped Black Box, a reconfigurable Studio Space, with unhindered access to the storage area and the loading docks. This unique aspect of the building is not designed to accommodate specific 21st century artefacts, but rather as a stage to create unique experiences specifically linked to this location.
The horizontal section of the building seems to hover and houses the more conventional display spaces. Emulating the city of Hong Kong, the galleries are organised in an orthogonal grid. The ‘Focus Gallery’ rises out of the horizontal exhibition building and plugs into the vertical education building. A tall space, the Focus Gallery is defined by two lateral bands of daylight just below the ceiling. A central plaza directs visitors to all the exhibition spaces, including the Anchor Room. Each of the corners of the plaza leads to a series of galleries. 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 Park and an auditorium facing Victoria Harbour. The exhibition spaces can be divided or combined based on requirements. The light entering the spaces can also be altered to enter from above or the sides. A strategically designed opening in the façade reveals views of the Artist Square, the Park and the Hong Kong Island skyline.
The platform between the ‘Found Space’ and the horizontal building is designated as a spacious entrance for the public, creating a welcoming platform that can be entered from all sides. Each quadrant of the platform performs a unique function. The museum shop sits in the corner next to Artist Square. A large temporary exhibition is located opposite the Park. At one end of the museum is an auditorium while on the other is the glazed Learning Centre. For the convenience of the guests, ticketing and information desks are located in the centre of the lobby. Visitors get a peek of the excavated ‘Found Space’ through a large opening.
The translucent vertical building houses the research facilities, artist-in-residence studios and a curatorial centre. The top floor will have restaurants and a member lounge with panoramic views of the city. The facade of the horizontal building is fitted with louvres that filter the sun’s glare falling on the museum. These louvres are also embedded with a LED lighting system to screen selected or commissioned works of art. The distinctive and singular form of M+ museum dominates the Victoria Harbour skyline, making it stand out in the harbour’s industrial landscape.
(Text by Sharmin Oanali, an intern at STIRworld.com)