Hong Kong’s long-delayed dream of a major museum for modern and contemporary art has come a big step closer to realization. The Swiss architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron, in conjunction with the London-Hong Kong firm TFP Farrells, has been tapped to design a $642-million building for the M+ center on a nearly 100-acre park site in West Kowloon, on landfill across Victoria Bay from the city’s Central District.
The winning T-shaped scheme, now scheduled for completion in 2017, calls for a 646,000-square-foot structure, with a one-story horizontal component offering 183,000 square feet of exhibition space and a broad vertical component devoted to offices, storage space and educational facilities. A relatively raw underground area will be devoted largely to performance. The vertical slab will be illuminated at night by LED displays.
Herzog & de Meuron, which won the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2001, is probably best known in Asia for designing the Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing. The firm was selected by an international jury over five other competitors, including Renzo Piano, Toyo Ito and SANAA. The M+ building will take its place in a 2011 Foster + Partners master plan for the West Kowloon Cultural District, encompassing a total of 17 new arts-related venues.
Press materials tout M+ as being more than twice the size of London’s Tate Modern and comparable in cultural significance to the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In addition to art, its purview will include architecture, design and other aspects of Asian visual culture.
M+, which already has a program of temporary projects under way in various neighborhood locales, launched its permanent collection in June 2012 with the acquisition of 1,510 works of contemporary Chinese art from Swiss collector Uli Sigg. Representing some 350 artists, the trove came as a combination of outright donations and partial gifts that cost the museum only $22.7 million.
Clearly aiming to set a high professional standard for the region, M+ has recruited a number of highly respected staff members from outside Hong Kong: visual art curators Pi Li (China) and Tobias Berger (Germany) and architecture and design curator Aric Chen (USA), as well as director Lars Nittve, former head of London’s Tate Modern and Stockholm’s Moderna Museet.