Herzog & de Meuron Wins M+ Commission
By John Jervis
The architectural metaphor may be labored and the renders rather subdued, focusing on the reflective capacities of the glass exterior, but Herzog & de Meuron’s popular and critical successes at London’s Tate Modern and San Francisco’s MH de Young Memorial Museum bode well for the future M+, which is due for completion in 2017.
Less encouragingly, one of the accompanying press releases includes a review of the financial status of the ambitious WKCD development, which was masterplanned by Foster + Partners. Ominous references are made to “rising construction costs” that will require “a pragmatic approach to develop[ing] facilities,” “rigorous cost containment,” “emphasis on content rather than form,” “granting of naming rights,” “optimiz[ing] the development potential of the WKCD” through “minor relaxation” of planning restrictions, and a “more functional and pragmatic approach in the design and construction of other facilities.”
Spiraling costs for the development have long been rumored. It now seems certain that substantial additional injections of public capital will be required to minimize the impact on arts facilities (the estimated cost of building the Xiqu Centre for Chinese Opera, which will be the first project to be completed in 2016, has now doubled, leading to suggestions that some later venues may need to be cancelled or combined), on the district’s open spaces (the budget allocated to the main park has already been cut by 40 percent, while an increase in development density of 15 percent across the site has been proposed) and on the sluggish and opaque completion schedule for the entire project, last mooted as 2031.
Whether there will be a tangible impact on the budget or opening date for the cash-hungry M+ itself remains to be seen.