The wood-grained concrete in the M+ building. Photo: Dan Leung. M+, Hong Kong
Down here in the Found Space is one of the best places in the museum to take in the unique styles of concrete that cover many of the walls, pillars, and floors in M+. Sticking with the idea that this level should feel industrial and emphasise its subterranean foundations, the architects chose to use exposed concrete on many of the surfaces. It makes for a space that feels very…honest. It’s a direct contrast to the more traditional white cube galleries you’ll find up on Level 2—down here the museum feels raw; grounded, this isn’t a space that’s trying to hide anything from the visitor.
Looking around this underground cavern, you’ll notice two distinct styles of concrete. If you look up at the beams overhead, and at the high shelf that marks the metro tunnel, you’ll see the more traditional smooth, poured concrete. Concrete left in an undecorated state like this is known as ‘fair-face’. Turn your attention to some of the walls and the huge pillars however, and you’ll see a far more textured, wood-panelled concrete. If you’re listening nearby, feel free to move closer and feel the surface for yourself.
This concrete cladding on the pillars down here was actually cast on the spot. First, giant two-sided moulds called formworks were constructed. Next, rough wooden panels were selected, polished, and coated in a special agent which would allow them to release from the concrete more easily at the end of the process. These were nailed to the inside of one side of the formwork moulds, before liquid concrete was poured in and left to set. When the formwork was removed, those wooden panels peeled away, leaving the imprints you now see all around you.
Just before you move on, you might be wondering why there are so many filled-in holes across the surface of the concrete. These are what are known as tie-holes, and they mark the places where metal rods were inserted between the two sides of the formwork mould while the concrete was setting. They literally held the structure together and ensured that the weight of the concrete didn’t cause any distortions to the mould, and therefore the finished wall.