Herzog & de Meuron Build HK Museum

Hong Kong - Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron have beaten rival studios Renzo Piano and Toyo Ito to design a HK$4.98 billion ($642 million) Asian modern- and contemporary-art museum.

Art collectors of ArtKabinett social media network cannot wait to see this new museum unfold.

Known as M+, the building is scheduled for completion in 2017 and will anchor the 17 cultural and entertainment venues at Hong Kong’s HK$23.5 billion West Kowloon Cultural District, according to a statement released yesterday.

“Creating a design for a museum like M+, expressing the diversity of visual culture with a global perspective but rooted in Hong Kong, is a complex task,” Lars Nittve, executive director of M+, said at a West Kowloon Cultural District Authority news conference. “But Herzog & de Meuron has succeeded.”

The museum is comprised of a one-floor horizontal building that hosts galleries and a vertical structure housing offices. The LED-lit exterior, resembling a video screen, can be seen from across the Victoria Harbor.

The team consisting of Basel-based Herzog & de Meuron and London firm TFP Farrells was chosen over competing short-listed design firms including Snohetta AS of Norway, Shigeru Ban and Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa/ SANAA from Japan.

Also known as the Museum of Visual Culture, M+ will house 20th- and 21st-century art, design, architecture, video and sound installations.

Pompidou, Tate

M+ is intended to be Hong Kong’s answer to the Pompidou Center in Paris or the Guggenheim in Bilbao. Architect Pierre de Meuron also mentioned M+ in the same breath as London’s Tate Modern and New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

“I’m sure that Hong Kong will be able to somehow -- it’s not a competition -- to be on the same level,” he said in an interview.

The new museum will address the longstanding complaint from some that that Hong Kong remains something of a cultural desert.

“Things are growing and will continue to grow,” Ascan Mergenthaler, senior partner at Herzog & de Meuron, said while dismissing such concerns. “Hopefully, other Hong Kong projects will be important pieces of this puzzle. Commercial galleries is a piece of the puzzle, Art Basel is a piece of the puzzle, there are so many things.”

The museum is the largest component of the government-backed, 40-hectare (98.8 acres) project that will include 23 hectares of green space built on reclaimed land across from Hong Kong island.

After more than a decade of delays, West Kowloon finally started moving forward in March 2011 when a master plan by Foster + Partners was chosen.

M+ has received about HK$6 billion from the government, of which HK$4 billion is for construction and another HK$1.7 billion is to build an art collection and cover costs such as storage.

The planned exhibition space will total about 17,000 square meters, more than twice that of London’s Tate Modern, in part because much Chinese contemporary art is “space hungry,” Nittve said in August.

It is the second design competition won by Herzog & de Meuron in Hong Kong, where it is also heading up the revitalization of the former Central Police Station and Victoria Prison in the heart of Hong Kong.

Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron were awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2001. Their projects include the Beijing Olympics “Bird’s Nest” Stadium and Tate Modern in London.

Last June, M+ received a donation of 1,463 works worth HK$1.3 billion and purchased an additional 47 works from Swiss businessman Uli Sigg, considered the foremost collector of contemporary Chinese art.