Review: Building M+

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 January, 2014, 11:11am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 January, 2014, 11:11am

Building M+

In the early 1990s, architect Tao Ho - best known for his innovative design of the Hong Kong Arts Centre - had an office in Kowloon Tong made from 24 shipping containers.

This contravened building codes, not to mention lease and land use conditions of the site.

But the modular form of the office resembled the vernacular buildings of Hong Kong's last major squatter area in Diamond Hill.

Letters shown in this exhibition between the Buildings Department and Tao Ho about the removal of his "illegal" office echo correspondence that a generation of residents experienced after improving their own tight living conditions. They did so by constructing illegal balconies, rooftop structures and expanding onto public space.

It is the exploration of stories associated with Hong Kong's built and urban forms that makes this exhibition so engaging. The models, drawings and photographs of the future M+ building are exciting. And this inaugural exhibition and education area for students is an excellent introduction to the topic.

Assembling a holistic story for architectural objects calls for real attention to detail.

Ian Lambot's meticulous aerial photograph of the infamous Kowloon Walled City here becomes animated when shown alongside a "video map" by researcher Suenn Ho, filmed as she wanders through a labyrinth of shadowy lanes chatting to shop owners, residents and policemen.

The seemingly innocuous model of the Rocco Yim-designed Hollywood Terrace is also displayed. But the story of its development, long delayed by a serious landslip and difficult engineering, is untold.

Visitors will often notice the difference between the architect's plans and reality. For example, the dull corporate towers of Exchange Square look nothing like the original colourful renditions (left) by architect Remo Riva. His original drawings also show Elisabeth Frink's water buffalo sculptures as integral to his courtyard design - their return in situ is expected after the current Exchange Square Three redevelopment is completed.

Models of the shortlisted contenders to design the M+ building are for the first time publicly displayed. It's good to see the chosen Herzog & de Meuron design is the best.

John Batten Until February 9