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Museum as Landmark ArchBattlefield The Revival of Regionalism?

7 up-to-date Art Museums in China Lumei Xu

"No More Weird Buildings" XI jinping, The President of the People's Republic of China

"In many cases architecture comes first and art comes second. China plans to elevate the per-capita number of museums to equal international levels. The short-term goal is to have one museum per 250,000 people" Jeffrey Johnson, architect and director of Columbia University's China Megacities Lab

“China's private art museums: Icons or empty vanity projects?” Georgia McCafferty for CNN

"I think necessarily in the development of China the 'hardware' comes before the 'software’. It just does. There are models of that in industry and in housing. The good quality museums are pretty well spread out, even in remote places. If you have an archaeological site in nowhere northern China you're going to build a museum on top of it to protect that site" Clare Jacobson, author of New Museums in China

"I think the problem is not so much architecture coming before curation, it's not enough resources, attention and, frankly, respect given to curation. A lot of architectural projects are still learning, so in some ways we're all watching as they learn” Aric Chen, the curator for design and architecture at Hong Kong M+ Museum

"China's private art museums is everyone's favorite piñata, for all of the obvious reasons, but on balance I would have to think it has been a good thing that has given China's young architects lot of opportunities" Seng Kuan, architectural historian with the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts

Foreword Architecture is not The Issue Lumei Xu "No More Weird Buildings" said XI jinping, the president of the People's Republic of China in 2014 Beijing Forum on Literature and Art, adding that art should “disseminate contemporary Chinese values, embody traditional Chinese culture and reflect Chinese people’s aesthetic pursuit.” This suggests that culture and art, along with creative industry might be the mainstream policy for the next two decades. At the same time, a group of Chinese billionaires achieved the accumulation of wealth. Although some of them are driven by vanity, many are motivated by a desire to share their newly acquired culture with the masses (Noe, 2016). As a result, it seems reasonable that more and more public and private capital injections turn into the art market in China. To start the business in art, first need a space. Compared with big urban complex, skyscrapers for example, which is dominated by U.S. and western architects, cultural facilities such as museum has become the main battlefield for Chinese architects for both masters and young talents. On one hand, local authorities are keen on establishing new “theme museums” mainly focus on local folk craft and art, as well as master artists who born in this city. Chinese architects have easier culture approach to those projects as they can play expertly between traditional architectural aesthetics and modern construction techniques. For example, the use of courtyards and outdoor corridors in response to the weather; the dimension of left blank and introduce natural scene; shaping the architecture to echo the local landscape or culture, etc. Thus, local neo-regionalism archived great success thanks to the booming of museums. Besides, some specific artist’s museums tend to invite foreign architects from the city that the artist used to live, in order to create a kind of “passage”, which is also general. On the other hand, private and foundation based museums rise dramatically that breed the modern art market. In response to the profit making task, post-modernism and high-tech architectures appeared to attack people’s eye. It seems invariable for modern art museums to choose between white cube and avant-garde. And whatever vogue the museum is, architects always claim themselves inspired by culture/ landscape elements, although sometimes visitors can hardly understand without introduction.


Foreword But what is “landmark” anyway? While being physical, architectural, and geographical, landmark is also spiritual, political and economical. Before creating architecture, urban design managed by the government started a step ahead. New landmark areas are planned to activate the city, and later, those lands become the testing ground for architects. For example, West Bund is a government led new art area development project in Shanghai Since 2012. In order to create “contents”, they gave privilege to private museums such as Long and Yuz to build new branches, and hold Art and design Festival to be the linkage. Shekou in Shenzhen is going to copy this successful model by launching V&A Museum in the coming October as a supporter to the Shenzhen Art Biennale. This book draws upon 7 representative art museums in China launched in the past five years, including different locations (big city, The Yangtse River Delta, and remote area), type (national museums for local art & culture/ single artist, private museums) and architectural style (regionalism, high-tech, post-modernism architecture). Tracing the flow of art museum's development in China, private museums tend to establish their empire in metropolis in the past years and now start adventures in secondary cities (e.g. Long Museum). Public museums emerged mainly in secondary cities, the Yangtse River Delta in paticular (e.g. Suzhou Museum, Mu Xin Museum, National Silk Museum, Intangible Cultural Heritage Museum, Jinlin Museum) but now aim at third-tier cities and remote areas (e.g. Yinchuan MOCA, Han Meilin Museum). Both of two parts are moving from coastal region to inland area. Besides, instead of design a new architecture, metropolis such as Beijing and Shanghai pay more attention on rebuilding historical buildings (e.g. Rockbund Art Museum), old factory and facilities (e.g. the Power Station of Art, Shanghai) due to the limited land resource. Please notice that, very limited examples are picked among huge numbers of new comers, and public museums in other fields are excluded in this book. Moreover, other cultural architectures such as theatre, library, and sports center are in the different baskets that cannot share the same experience. This is a book focus on architecture, but far more than design. Everyone is welcomed to look at it with your own understanding.


Long Museum

In the Forefront


Long Museum Long Museum West Bund

Private Museum for Modern Art Architect: LIU Yichun, CHEN Yifeng from Atelier Deshaus (CN) Location: Shanghai (The Yangtse River Delta) Year: 2014 Area: 33007 sqm Photographer: SU Shengliang, XIA Zhi, credit: Atelier Deshaus Article from the architect ©Atelier Deshaus

storey underground parking the original parking has been Long Museum West Bund completed as early as two transformed to an exhibition space with the over ground is located at the bank of years ago. Huangpu River, Xuhui District, T h e n e w d e s i g n a d o p t s space highlighting multiple Shanghai Municipality, the the cantilever structure orientations because of site of which was used as the featuring “vault-umbrella” t h e re l at i ve co n n e c t i o n wharf for coal transportation. with independent walls while of the “vault-umbrella” at Before the commencement the shear walls with free different directions; besides, of the design, a Coal-Hopper- layout are embedded into the electrical & mechanical Unloading-Bridge of about the original basement so system has been integrated 110m in length, 10m in width as to be concreted with the i n t h e “ va u l t- u m b re l l a ” and 8m in height, which was original framework structure. structure. As to the over constructed in the 1950s, With the shear walls, the ground space covered by the is remained with a two- first underground floor of “vault-umbrella”, the walls

From the architect:


“ Is white cube still necessary in designing museums? Nowadays, Chinese architects tend to use raw concrete instead, to avoid the tension of a pure white space. And “experiments” showed that the nature colour works well with light and modern art pieces. Designed by one of the master architect in China, this pioneer architecture helped Long Museum archived its leading position in 3 years shortly. Among others, the flexible and suitable space for different featured exhibitions might be the main point visitors appreciated”

and the ceiling feature ascast-finish concrete surface so that their geometrical dividing line seems faint. Such structure cannot only shield the human body in conformation, moreover, the building’s internal space can also represent a kind of primordial and tameless charm while the spatial dimension, large or small, and the as-cast-finish concrete surface with the seam among

moulding boards and the bolt holes bring a sense of reality as well. The directness and simplicity resulting from this “literal” structure, material and space plus the sense of force or lightness because of large-scale overhanging style enables the overall building’s continuation of the industrial property of the original site, not only in time but in space.

cast-finish concrete “vaultumbrella” and the “white box” exhibition space on the first underground floor are connected with spiral ladders downward. The parallel tensility highlighting the space, primordial but realistic, and the art exhibition from the ancient, modern and contemporary periods, has displayed an The flowing exhibition space exhibition space featuring under the over ground as- the temporality.


Fosun Foundation Art Center

Fosun Foundation Art Center

the Dancing Museum



Fosun Foundation Art Center

Fosun Foundation Art Center designed by master British architect Thomas Heatherwick, cooperated with Foster + Partners might be the first “moving architecture” that broke the perception of a fixed space. Inspired by the traditional Chinese opera, Heatherwick created metal curtain walls with three layers. When three layers rotating


in different horizontal directions at the same time, the architecture looks like dancing. The “tassels” that compose the walls are designed to simulate bamboos, which is also a Chinese element. Besides, the delicate texture on those metal bamboos suggests the weaving and embroidery history of Shanghai, and the bottom

of each bamboo is painted in red in 9 different hues. 2016 Artnet Awards was h e l d to b e t h e o p e n i n g event of Fosun foundation Art Center in the end of December. As Fosun group is the biggest private enterprise in China with 141 subsidiaries which run business in multifields including biopharmaceutical and real

estate, the launch of the art center with Artnet can be seen as an ambition of Fosun’s future investment in art area. Their inaugural ex h i b i t i o n , n a m e d “ 2 0 , Chinese contemporary art" exhibition, was cooperated with ShanghART Gallery. Currently, Fosun Foundation Art Center is operated by Wang Jinyuan, who is also the first lady of Fosun

Group. As a new comer, whether the art center will position itself more on art investment, exhibition or education is still unclear, h o w e v e r, a s i g n i f i c a n t architecture would be a good starting for everything happened in the future. And this is a common situation for most of the new art museums in China in the past few years.

Fosun Foundation Art Center Private Foundation Museum mainly for Modern Art Architect/ Studio: Thomas Heatherwick (UK); Foster +Partners (Shanghai Branch) L o cat i o n : S h a n g h a i ( T h e Yangtse River Delta) Year: December, 2016 Area: 420,000 sqm Photographer: LUO Wen, copyrights belong to Elle Decoration Chinese Version


Jinling Art Museum

Jinling Art Museum

Metal Cube



Jinling Art Museum

Jinling Art Museum

National Museum for Local Culture History and Art Architect: LIU kecheng (CN) Location: Nanjing, Jiangsu Province (The Yangtse River Delta) Year: October, 2013 Area: 12974 sqm Photographer: Chong’er, credit: ATELIER LIU KECHENG


Surrealism? Abstract? Modern? It is hard to guess from the appearance that Jinling Art Museum is a space for presenting local history and cultures, and it is a rebuild project from an old fabric and dye factory. The museum is located in a historical and cultural community where the former factory broke the harmony of the community’s impression. In order to make the building relate closely to the surroundings, architect Liu Kecheng paid a visit to all the

small lanes in the community. When the pictures of lanes spreading out, Liu was inspired by their various perspectives thus abstract them to be different the stereo cubes.

the material of the cube. Not only because it suggests the spirit of the former industrial building, but also easy to prefabricate and construct that can reduce the pollution.

The texture of the cube is also a reaction to the local culture. To ke n t h e p atte r n f ro m apertures that lie between bricks in the historical maisons nearby, delicate lines are used in the bevels inside the cube while square patterns appear in the vertical façade.

By composing cubes to be the “outerwear”, Jinling Art Museum tries to deliver the geographical characteristic and memory of the area through a strong and aggressive way. In this regard, Jinling Art Museum might be the heretic among other new Aluminium plate is chose to be cultural museums in China.


Jixi Museum

Jixi Museum

Dialogue with Scenery 14


Jixi Museum

From the architect: The design of the museum is based on a delicate research of the topography and history of Jixi, a hilly county located at the foot of Mountain Huangshan and famous for its vernacular settlements. A continuous canopy is occupied to cover the entire site. Its profile simulates the undulating feature of the surrounding


hills and rivers. Various courts, patios and alleys are carved out within building to maintain the original trees of the site as much as possible. A three-dimensional touring route began with the entry is developed around the courts, steams and lanes to guide visitors to encounter the exhibition halls, undulating roofs and distant hills.

Jixi Museum

National Museum for Local Culture History and Art Architect: LI Xinggang (CN) Location: Jixi, An’hui Province Year: December, 2013 Area: 9500 sqm Photographer: XIA Zhi, credit: ATELIER LI XINGGANG Article from the architect : ©Chinese Architecture Group


Intangible Cultural Heritage Museum

Intangible Cultural Heritage Museum

Separate and Connection


Suzhou Intangible Cultural Heritage Museum National Museum for Local Culture, History and Art Architect: Vector Architects (CN) Location: Suzhou, Jiangsu Province (The Yangtse River Delta) Year: 2016 Area: 14000 sqm Photographer: CHEN Hao, Eiichi Kano, credit: Vector Architects Article from the architect ŠVector Architects


Intangible Cultural Heritage Museum

From the architect: Suzhou Intangible Cultural Heritage Museum is located at east part of the Suzhou H o r t i c u l t u ra l E x p o s i t i o n Park, in a reserved village near Taihu Lake of Wuzhong District, Suzhou. The site is surrounded by river on its three sides, and the design is inspired by its natural environment and the


traditional culture of the city- courtyards when raining. The Suzhou. main spaces located in the Our strategy is connecting courtyards are designed with different scattered functions identities, such as the dome by courtyards and outdoor theater covered by laminated corridors in order to generate bamboo louvers with green the spatial experience of vegetation, the iconic cloud installation on the roof-top traditional building types. platform of the museum In consideration of local l o b b y, t h e o b s e r v a t i o n climates, it allows visitors to tower that overlooks the walk through those outdoor surrounding view in distance corridors between different and the restaurant at the

water-front. In order to meet the programme equirements and reduce the negative impact on natural environment, the majority of the volume is covered by green roof. It amplifies the theme of blending the boundary between architecture and nature. The Suzhou Intangible cultural heritage museum

offers people large amount of information and interactive experiences during their visit. Three atriums create natural ventilation and lighting, and direct visitors to the roof exhibition platform. It forms a public park with various types of vegetation where outdoor performances, dining events as well as educational and interactive experience can take place.


Yinchuan MOCA

Yinchuan MOCA

Half Desert, Half wetland


Yinchuan MOCA

National Museum for Chinese and Mohammedan Modern Art Architect: waa (we architech anonymous), CN Location: Yinchuan, Ningxia Province (North-western China, the Yellow River Basin) Year: 2015 Area: 13188 sqm Photographer: NAARO, waa, credit: waa Article from the architect Šwaa National Museum for Chinese and Mohammedan Modern Art


Yinchuan MOCA

From the architect: waa complete an new museum of contemporary art in a Chinese city next to Yellow River, inspired by the local topography to give the museum its identity. MOCA Yinchuan is located at the border between lush wetlands and arid desert divided by the Yellow river. In an area with no apparent


grounding for contemporary art culture to grow. It was chosen to embrace this site complexity and rich ecological history. Placing the importance of geological activity in our site narration enabled the formation of a site specific concept and identity.

observed through satellite imagery which alludes to the rivers ever changing, shifting location. Leaving the current vast wetlands, as the only remnants of this journey and inspiring the museums dialogue with the site.

T h e c r a f t e d m u s e u m ’s massing responds to F re q u e n t f l o o d i n g o ve r geological forces (uploading the last millennia can be or Sediment erosion) visible

of documented time through material sedimentation. Emulating these natural landform processes frees a language intrinsically linked with ‘Place’ while hinting of this ‘place’ as a Time in the past. G R C w a s a n i n t e g ra l t o developing a double curved surface. This building is comprised of over 1600 unique panels ranging from 40sqm to 8sqm. Reawakening of the spirit of craftsmanship redundant in the age of automation

in the sedimentary creases abundant on the facade. Visualising the creases and texture require explorations using parametric techniques at certain moments during the design process. T h e s e h e l p i m p l a nt t h e desired identity, a “fossil “documenting the traces of Time.

Internal programmatic arrangement dictated the e nv e l o p e s a p p e a ra n c e ; we hoped to engage in an open feel of participation for local visitors shortening the leap to art appreciation through educational leisure programs. Thus engaging the community and challenging them to observe in an open and optimistic environment. The linear route through gallery spaces helps direct the visitors gaze with a p e rc e pt i o n o f c l i m b i n g . B a s e m e n t ga l l e r i e s a r e represented in darker and rougher materials, ascending t h e ex p e r i e n c e b e co m e whiter, brighter and more synthetic.

The museum imparts an ambition to age, dark to light/ rough to smooth/ rising and falling. These simple rhythms and tempos hope to focus the visitor to experience traces of If the facade creases speak Time with greater awareness.

" The

f i rst p ro fe s s i o n a l modern art museum in north-western China; the first museum located in the organic rice field; the first museum in the world focus on Chinese and Mohammedan Modern Art; “the 10 Best Places to Experience Culture in Asia” by Katrina Lobley for the Guaidian (2016); the multi awards winner including the best museum design of 2016….. It’s hard to believe so many attentions were paid on a newly born museum in the remote area in China from both art and design industry. Among them, the most “significant ” news might be: since its 2015 opening, Yinchuan MOCA organized an art biennale and has made headlines, uninviting outspoken Chinese artist Ai Weiwei from the biennale"


Han Meilin Art Museum

Han Meilin Art Museum

Born of the Mountain “Han Meilin Art Museum might be the example of how architecture can be built with the nature. While natural scenery and humanitarian art combined so perfectly in its narrative, the remote location may cause the loss of regular visits. Accoding to this case, it's deserved thinking that, will it make sense and be success if a specific theme museum clearly position itself as a scenic spot just like a theme park? On the other side, the lack of philanthropic culture that exists in the U.S. and Europe might be one of the


core problems for China in developing national and private museums. Luckily, some famous artists (such as Han Meilin) or late artists’ families start their donation or cooperation with the local government. Here are two examples. Mu Xin Museum (2015), located in Wuzhen (Zhejiang P ro v i n c e , h o m e to w n o f Mu), was designed by OLI Architecture (founded by Chinese and Japanese architects in New York, and Mu was also settled down in New York since 80s)and directed by Mu’s disciple

Chen Danqing. This might be an ideal cooperation to operate a specific artist’s museum. Besides, more and more specific artist’s museums are under planning and some of them are trying to represent themselves through a western eye. Zhang Daqian Museum in Niejiang (Sichuan Province, Southwest of China, hometown of this Chinese ink painting authority) invited Benedetta Tagliabue / EMBT (Malaga, hometown of Pablo Picasso) to do the design, in order to celebrate the great friendship between Zhang

Han Meilin Art Museum

National Museum for Single Artist Architect: Sunlay Design (CN) Location: Yinchuan, Ningxia Province (North-western C h i n a , t h e Ye l l ow R i ve r Basin) Year: 2016 Area: 5980 sqm Photographer: ARCHEXIST, credit: Sunlay Design Article from the architect ©Sunlay Design

From the architect: 30 kilometers west from Yinchuan, there is the crowded vista of the Helan Mountain Range. Back in the Stone Age, carvings of human figures, animals, hunting scenes, rituals and gods were deeply etched in between the rocks on both sides of the eastern gully of the mountain pass. These ancient rock paintings have leapt through time and after five thousand years they have mysteriously connected to the contemporary artist Han Meilin.

and Picasso. An avant-garde structure started construction since 2016. As ‘east meet west’ is a super hot topic in China, whether it’s a revival or a ruin, can be seen shortly in the coming years.”

“I firstly arrived at the Helan Mountain 21 years ago,” says the artist, “after I had witnessed these ancient paintings, I had a feeling that I had been traveling all my life searching for home of art, and now I have finally found it here at the age of over 50. This had been a search for over half of my entire lifetime.”

thousand pieces of selected artworks to the Yinchuan Municipal Government. To properly collect and exhibit these precious artworks, Yinchuan Municipal Government had proposed an art museum project near the ancient rock painting site at Helan Mountain. Hence the Han Meilin Art Museum project was initiated. The main subject Sunlay came across when designing this particular project was to custom-make a site-specific architecture that would correspond to the majestic Helan Mountain and the magnificent rural natural environment.

Likewise the artist Mr. Han Meilin, the ancient rock paintings also inspired the design team. We proposed a scheme similar to the ruins of the rock paintings, the design aimed to express intellectual In 2010, with great respects to aspirations of human-beings the Helan Mountain, Mr. Han while merge back to the Meilin had donated over one nature landscape. The result


Han Meilin Art Museum is an architecture of land art with appropriate scale, volume and composition in regard to the vast mountain, communicating a spiritual connection between the natural elements including land, sky, mountain and mankind. Herein it forms a resonance between art and man, a symbiosis status between architecture and nature. The geological condition of Helan Mountain is mainly composed with rocky mountains, with exposed stones and severely deserted. The local Helan residents have developed a way of masonry wall construction method which utilizes existing material when building houses. To maintain the pale waste isolation and vigorous characteristic of the site, the design scheme utilizes the height difference and inserts the entire architecture into the main body of the mountain. The masonry surfaces of the walls preserve the primitive texture of the local rock, which form a coherent unity of man-made architecture and nature. The “vaults� between the walls contain the main functions of the building. Three platform of shimizu concrete are placed lightly on top of the original surface of landform to create a safe zone in between the deserted land. The raw-surfaced wall and simple exhibition hall are layered to form the


basic appearance of the architecture. Other secondary functions such as stairs and restrooms are all hidden into the vaults of the thick walls to ensure the highly purified spatial experience of the exhibition hall and still maintain the rich layered architectural form. The main exhibition circulation route is determined based on the 9.5 height difference of the site. The route is curated from the top to the lower level with natural masonry paths directing the circulation toward the entry of the main architecture. The 3-story Art Museum contains an exhibition hall, an interactive zone, a creative zone and tourist service areas; with multiple functions such as exhibition, tutorials and leisure activities. The exhibits include rock-painting-theme paintings, calligraphies, sculptures and ceramics by Mr. Han Meilin.

into multiple zones, artworks of various types are organized in featured exhibition spaces. The organization of the building plan is guided by the 2 stories core exhibition hall at the center, it is then s u r ro u n d e d by d y n a m i c interactive spaces which interlaced zones weaving back into the main hall. The visiting experience is like reading through a masterpiece with various chapters, filled with interesting stories for visitors to mingle with.

The Art Museum locates at the exit of the prehistoric rock painting site. Like a sheltered station for tiring tourists, the Art Museum has provided an ending spot of the ruin scenery experience, while at the same time performed as a starting point of interactive contemporary art exhibition. The sight-seeing rhythm is enriched with the Art Museum providing a conversation between tourists, spirit of The exhibition hall, based on modernity, contemporary art the features of the contents and history, art and nature of the exhibits, are divided from five thousand years ago.

PROJECT INFORMATION See project pages REFERENCE Georgia McCafferty, (2017). China's private museums: Icons or art?. [online] CNN. Available at: http://edition. [Accessed 15 Mar. 2017]. Sam Gaskin, (2017). Stunning museums in China - CNN. com. [online] CNN. Available at: http://edition.cnn. com/2014/04/29/world/asia/china-museums/ [Accessed 15 Mar. 2017]. COPYRIGHT Museum as Landmark: 7 up-to-date art museums in China Edited and Produced by Lumei Xu MA Culture Criticism and Curation Central Saint Martins March, 2017 Words without notes ©Lumei Xu Contact:

Long Museum Fosun Foundation Art Center Jinling Art Museum Jixi Museum Suzhou Intangible Cultural Heritage Museum Yinchuan MOCA Han Meilin Art Museum

Shanghai Nanjing Jixi Suzhou Yinchuan

Museum as Landmark - 7 Emerging Art Museums in China - by Lumei Xu  
Museum as Landmark - 7 Emerging Art Museums in China - by Lumei Xu  

During the recent 10 years, museums experienced a big bang in China. The architecture design of the museums is booming consequently. While m...