If you’re in the Nursery Park in the West Kowloon Cultural District and walking down towards the North Lawn, you’ll find two small concrete structures standing by the waterfront. They are what’s known as the M+ ‘building mockups’: simulations, representations, and tests of various design elements that will appear in the actual museum building, consolidated into two small constructions.
The mockups are important parts of the design and construction process, allowing the Museum Joint Venture Consultancy team (Herzog & de Meuron, TFP Farrells, and Ove Arup and Partners HK) to visualise and test out design features before implementing them in the actual museum building. This means they give us useful visual information about what the completed M+ building will look like—just in tiny, jumbled form.
Members of the public can only see these mockups from the outside, and are currently not allowed inside (safety first!). So we’d like to invite you on a small online tour of the mockups here on M+ Stories, and give you a small preview of what the finished museum will look like.
Museum tower facade
Going around to the front of the first built mockup, the one closest to the waterfront, we find a framework, covered by corrugated glazed ceramic tiles, representative of the facade of the M+ building’s future tower.
These tower facade tiles, made in Italy and assembled as part of the framework in China, are of a rich, dark green colour. They’re laid out in a horizontal louvre structure that will provide sun shading to the museum’s interior spaces.
The recesses in the louvres will be embedded with LED light bars to form a media facade on the south side of the tower towards the Victoria Harbour. The images and videos displayed will be visible even from the Hong Kong Island side.
Main museum entrance
The area by the entrance of the mockup simulates the ground floor main entrance of the future museum building.
The concrete ceiling above this area of the mockup is about seven metres high; the same as it will be in the final museum building (see image below), giving a good sense of scale of the ground floor main lobby. In this space, a range of design elements corresponding to the future main entrance can be seen, from the ceramic tubes forming vertical columns along the walls, to the entrance mat on the floor.
The dark green tiles in this area will reappear in the main entrance and throughout the main lobby. The natural firing process of the ceramic tiles leads to interesting slight variations in the colour tone and surface texture across the different tiles.
Together with the glazed finish, this offers a dynamic appearance across the whole tile facade; one which is highly responsive to different times of the day and weather conditions, creating a unique expression of the museum in the Kowloon skyline.
In this area of the mockup, the architects have also tested how signs on the walls, such as those pointing to the restaurants or the bathrooms, behave on the textured concrete surface.
Level 2 galleries
Inside the mockup itself is an entrance door that leads to a mock gallery space. This simulates the entrances that lead to the galleries from the central Atrium on level two, where the majority of exhibition spaces will be located. The door is of two different colours, so that the architects and the client—that is, M+—were able to test out which shade would work better under the lighting and against the various wall and floor textures.
Inside the gallery space, the architects have experimented with the floors, walls, and lighting, such as painting the walls in different shades of white and reviewing the correct colour temperature of the lights in the galleries. Large glass windows (now removed due to safety reasons) were built to see how the gallery interior interacts with natural daylight. This small room acts as an essential space to test out all of the visual and practical features of the museum’s white-walled gallery spaces.
The most striking aspect of this second mockup is the large glass window structure in front. It’s a simulation of one part of the glass wall on the waterfront promenade level. In particular, it tests the relationship between the glass and the concrete, as well as its quality. The glass is slightly mirrored, so that, in the final building, it will reflect the surrounding harbour and landscape park.
Roof terrace level
Around the corner is a simulation of the way the diagonal composite mega truss will be exposed on the podium roof terrace level, corresponding to the various public spaces on the museum’s third floor, such as the museum café.
Inside this mockup, the architects have tested various interior features of different areas of the museum, including the future café lobby, the offices, and the learning centre. Due to its space limitations, this mockup in particular shows the unexpected ways in which different sections of the building had to be packed into a small house—a little bit like a continuously evolving puzzle.
Both mockups are playgrounds for experimentation, wherein design ideas are tweaked and tested. You find a myriad of tiny details in them that you’d likely never think about—but which are incredibly important to the final experience of the museum. We hope this mini-tour gives you a better idea of where M+ is headed over the next couple of years!
This article was originally published on M+ Stories.