A building under construction stands next to the water in a pink sunset. Large cranes surround the construction site.

What’s Going on at the M+ Construction Site? January 2019

When you visit the M+ Pavilion right now—perhaps to see the current exhibition Noguchi for Danh Vo: Counterpoint—you’ll find yourself next to the construction site for the M+ building. You’ll see a building that is well on its way to completion, with a finished tower structure and podium, but what exactly is going on? We’re here to explain.

1. The structure of the vertical tower is complete

A construction site with two structures under construction. The M+ building on the left consists of a horizontal podium and vertical tower rising up from the center. The structures of both are completed but facade panels are still being installed. The building on the right is smaller and square in shape, surrounded by scaffolding.

The topped out building in January 2019. Photo © M+, Hong Kong

Last time we wrote about the M+ building, the tower was in its early stages. Now, the structure of the tower is complete. On 30 November, M+ held a ceremony at the museum construction site to celebrate the official topping out of the M+ building. Earlier that week, concrete had been poured on the top to fully finalise this part of construction.

The top of the M+ building’s tower. Rectangular metal frameworks with bright orange/red tops are placed throughout the fresh concrete surface. Three workers wearing safety helmets are clustered at the bottom left of the photo.

Right after the concrete was poured on top of the tower to top it out. Photo © Fallout Media

Once the museum opens, this vertical tower will house a library, study centre, member’s facilities, museum offices, and restaurants. The exterior of the tower will also feature an LED media facade, where images and artworks will be shown and will be visible from all the way across Victoria Harbour.

Rendering of a building in a park with a horizontal podium and tall vertical tower rising up from the middle of the podium.

Rendering of the M+ building by Herzog & de Meuron, showing what the central tower will look like once completed. Image © Herzog & de Meuron

2. 92,000 cubic metres of concrete have been poured

View from inside a large concrete room with a dirt floor and large concrete-covered trusses visible through the walls. Piles of building materials are piled around the room. The Hong Kong skyline is visible through the opening on the far end.

View of the concrete interior of one of the galleries on the podium level. Photo © M+, Hong Kong

Concrete is the whole world of this building: it’s used for all of the walls, floors, and ceilings. So far, 92,000 cubic metres of concrete have been poured.

Concrete being poured for the foundation of the building in 2016. Video footage © Wong Tsz Ho Prince

Most of the concrete surfaces of the M+ building make use of ‘fair-faced’ or ‘architectural’ concrete. It’s the first time Hong Kong is doing fair-faced concrete on this scale. Fair-faced concrete is created by using forms and moulds to cast the concrete. To achieve the aesthetic requirements for the M+ building, concrete mixture is poured into moulds made of wooden panels, which cast an organic, wooden texture as the liquid concrete solidifies. The panels get recycled to create another batch of fair-faced concrete until they are no longer usable. The mix and match of different wooden slats that make up each mould contributes to a subtle variety of patterns for each slab of wall.

Workers removing a wooden mould from the concrete, to create the unique texture. Video footage © Fallout Media

3. The facade panels are being installed

The side of a building under construction. Facade panels, consisting of dark green tiles in rows with windows in between, are being installed from the bottom up, with the top half remaining bare.

The tower facade panels being attached to the side of the tower. Photo © M+, Hong Kong

You might notice that the exterior of the museum is increasingly being covered by dark green ceramic tiles. These facade panels will cover both the vertical tower, and the horizontal podium below, which will contain the majority of the galleries. Two kinds of panels are being attached: one for the podium, and the other one for the tower. As of the publication of this post, circa 35% of the tower panels and 41% of the podium panels have been installed.

The facade panels for the podium consist of dark green ceramic tubes forming vertical columns along the exterior walls:

A wall of vertical green ceramic tubes hanging on the side of a building.

The facade panels on the podium levels. Image © M+, Hong Kong

In comparison, the facade panels covering the tower also consist of dark green ceramic tiles, but laid out in a horizontal louvre structure. The tower facade panels are designed to provide daylight to the interior spaces, whereas most of the podium panels conceal and provide shade.

Closeup on a facade framework consisting of dark green tiles on top of thin concrete slabs with windows in between.

Close-up of the central tower facade panels. Photo © M+, Hong Kong

The recesses in the louvres will be embedded with LED light bars. Together, these individual tubes will form the imageries shown on the above-mentioned LED media facade.

The unique process of creating these tile facade panels has spanned Italy, China, and finally Hong Kong. (You can learn more about the facade creation process in this video.)

So, that’s a quick look at what’s going on at the M+ construction site! Check back in a couple of months for more updates and, in the meantime, keep track of the building process on the West Kowloon Cultural District website.

Image at top of post: The M+ building in October 2018. Photo © Eason Tsang Ka-wai

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