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NewsHong Kong

'Bird's Nest' architects Herzog & de Meuron win M+ museum design

Swiss architectural firm fights off five global rivals with a minimalist 'playground for artists' to win job of creating West Kowloon museum

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 June, 2013, 1:33pm

A team led by the architectural firm behind the "Bird's Nest" National Stadium in Beijing and London's Tate Modern gallery has fended off five other big names for the right to design the M+ museum in the West Kowloon arts hub.

Herzog & de Meuron of Switzerland, with local firm TFP Farrells, won with a minimalistic concept for the contemporary visual-culture museum that promises to become a playground for artists.

The partnership demonstrated an internal space that was ideal for M+, said museum committee chairman Victor Lo, who sits on an eight-member panel that selected the winner.

"I feel [the design] is very Hong Kong," Lo said.

Locally, the Swiss firm was also responsible for the design of the Central Police Station compound in Central.

The team envisioned M+ as a cultural centre rather than a museum. Its design is a combination of a horizontal and a vertical structure that, viewed from the side, looks like an upside-down "T" - and is reminiscent of the Bankside Power Station housing the Tate Modern in London, designed by Herzog & de Meuron.

The horizontal structure holds a wide variety of spaces ranging from an underground area moulded around the Airport Express MTR line and capable of housing enormous installations, to individual galleries for different types of art. A large public space is created by elevating the building from the ground.

The south-facing vertical structure has a flat surface on which big artworks can be projected - and be visible from across Victoria Harbour.

Architect Pierre de Meuron said the concept was about "what is art and what is perceiving art … The strength of the project lies in its simplicity."

Architectural firm partner Ascan Mergenthaler said the spaces allowed many possibilities for artists. "It's a playground for artists," he said.

In Herzog & de Meuron's concept, the museum, including arts facilities and shops, will take up 75,785 square metres compared with the 62,000 sq metres in the original plan.

Cost is understood to have taken up only a 10 per cent weighting in the choice of design.

But people familiar with the project said the winning design was the cheapest, budgeted to cost 40 per cent less than the most expensive entry. West Kowloon chairwoman Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the cost of M+ was estimated at HK$4.9 billion, or HK$65,700 per sq metre. She insisted it was economical. The building cost was originally estimated at HK$3.3 billion.

Founded in 1978, Basel-based Herzog & de Meuron was a winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize. The firm is led by architects Jacques Herzog, de Meuron, Ascan Mergenthaler, Stephan Marbach and Christine Binswanger.



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Ah but it wouldn't be Chinese if it was not covered entirely with small square "toilet tiles" like the vast majority of buildings in HK/Mainland
The financing of art center at the West Kowloon never has been deviated from the like in building MTR tracks and stations – profits from selling property around and above them carry the cost of new construction. The announcement of freezing government from further investment for the art center is more a gesture kowtowing to the property developers by allotting them more land area for development over the excuse of the need to make up the shortfalls for additional cost. All is part of a script – development for art since the last Administration time. If CY Leung really wants to set us onto a new development model then free Hong Kong from the control by property developers. Let us have a public park on this ill-gotten land (robbing the harbor). Trees, grass and flowers, bees and birds are what Hong Kong people would really appreciate the most. At least the land is already paid for by the people of Hong Kong. A Central Park in the city of Hong Kong that to be for all -- rich and poor.
The proposal looks uninteresting and uninspiring especially as a museum or a cultural center. Sitting at the waterfront in front of an overwhelming hotel tower and a non-designed building just added another incongruent object there that what built environment of Hong Kong is everywhere. The two marble-like slabs lie like unmarked headstones of a grave. Its size and simple form are just as brutal as if the facade is covered with tiles or concrete despite its saturated coverage in frosted glass that requires a fastidious technical knowhow to achieve. The architects must have learned their lesson fast that Hong Kong prides its waterfront with gigantic electric billboards. The translucent vertical slab would just do that splendidly but in the name of art. Their ‘gamble’ is rewarded by the panels of eight perhaps mostly Hong Kongers whom the reporter neglects to identify. The brutal simple form also win on the construction cost which reported to be 40% less than the most expansive proposal. The worry of cost overruns in the economic downturn must cross all the jury’s mind. A cheap design preempts a possible abortive outcome. A tomb stone or two is better than none. After all, it is designed by world famous architects. I am truly sorry the jury has such a local mentality and power misusing a better worldly design solution for the rest of people in Hong Kong. I am sorry too that the Swiss architects haven’t worked hard enough. They have been overly adaptive to get the job.
What the rendering shows, the architects could be a different architects who are known for the design of the Bird;s Nest. In my judgment, it is so. The Bird's Nest design is more a concoction of Ai Wei Wei – a Chinese architect who turned to be an installation artist who acted as ‘design advisor’ to the Swiss architects. I am sure the M+ wouldn’t repeat the Bird’s Nest which is high in construction cost overrun and low in efficiency in function (as a sports arena). The proposal seems some assurance in a minimalist style similar to the Swiss museum that gained the architects international fame in the 80s. There is no assurance, therefore there will be any view of the harbor, like that Swiss museum, the proposed M+ seems too would all be cladded in frosted glass.
Congratulations to WKC, Herzog de Meuron & TPF Farrells team.
Being part of the Beijing Government's team I had the pleasure of being directly involved with Pierre de Meuron in reaching the agreement on the Bird's Nest. I can only have praise for the architect, professionally and as a modest and flexible person. So I would say – good choice.
don't hold your breath - the statement 'internal space" and the 'flat surface' on the South side on which 'artworks can be projected' does not bode well!


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