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M+, Hong Kong © Virgile Simon Bertrand; M+, Hong Kong © Virgile Simon Bertrand;

M+ museum building, Hong Kong

A globally-recognised hub that redefines visual culture

Located at the southern tip of Hong Kong’s West Kowloon area, the 40ha West Kowloon Cultural District is an arts and cultural hub, designed to support the development of the city’s creative economy and evolution as a global tourist destination.

The centre piece of the Cultural District is the M+, which has seen Arup working in collaboration with architects Herzog & de Meuron and TFP Farrells since jointly winning the design competition in 2013. One of the most sustainable cultural buildings in East Asia, it is also a project that’s provided testing challenges for our team offering total design services including civil, structural, geotechnical, MEP, façade and fire engineering with lighting, acoustics, landscape, security and transportation design and consultancy.

Project Summary

65,000 total GFA

17,000gallery space reserved for exhibitions

140,000+ceramic tiles covering vertical tower

The M+ building (Video by Fallout Media; Courtesy of M+)
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The ‘found’ space follows the shape of the Airport Express Line tunnels 	© M+ Consultancy JV The ‘found’ space follows the shape of the Airport Express Line tunnels 	© M+ Consultancy JV
The Found Space, M+ building (Photo: © Virgile Simon Bertrand)

The underground ‘found space’

The M+ building sits directly above tunnels for the MTR Airport Express and Tung Chung Line, which runs just 1.5m below ground level. The architect proposed to excavate this subterranean ‘found space’ as the museum’s anchoring feature. Mirroring the shape of the tunnel, it allows for large installation and future tweaks as M+ evolves.

To facilitate construction our designers needed to control the tunnel movements in accordance with strict limits set by Hong Kong’s transit and building authorities. Our solution included the use of five mega-trusses which prevent the M+ structure loading the tunnels.

Creating visual impact at the harbourfront

The eye-striking inverted T shape of M+ building is a simple design, yet its façade is something special. Its tower is covered with 140,000 pieces of ceramic tiles, many with windows in between. They are laid out in a horizontal louvre structure to provide sun shading to the museum’s interior spaces. The recesses in the louvres are embedded with LED light bars that transform the building into one of the world’s biggest screens, 65.8m high and 110m long, to display specially commissioned works of art at night.

Sustainable space for all

Above ground, much of the focus is on our sustainable design which enhances the museum’s microclimate and reduces both energy demand and operating costs – with passive and active strategies minimising use of energy, materials, water and land, and the use of ambient energy sources such as daylight, wind and solar.

Our landscape design also contributes to the surrounding lush green open spaces created by the building footprints, including a large publicly accessible podium, refreshed by the adjacent harbour breeze and irrigated through rainwater harvesting. We considered a wide range of aspects including the densely-built cityscape, the juxtaposition of water and land, the topography of the peninsula and the humid subtropical climate.

Protecting the collections

M+ hosts a collection of over 7,000 works of visual arts, along with more than 46,000 archival objects. Arup’s MEP solutions with tailored lighting and acoustics design help maintain suitable environmental conditions.

We also adopted performance-based fire engineering approach that enables the spatial planning design of the large atrium, high visitor’s density and no limitation of fire load in the building, among other fire safety elements. Apart from smoke behaviour and evacuation engineering analyses, we also designed an innovative smoke control system to suit the museum’s unique design and function with a comprehensive fire safety management plan.