First museum in China dedicated to contemporary architecture opens this spring
Over the past few months WAN has covered a plethora of concept designs in the Tier Two city of Nanjing in China, including Populous’ masterplan for the 2014 Youth Olympic Games, the Nanjing City Concept by CK Designworks and BDP’s Nanjing Medical University. The capital of Jiangsu Province is a thriving hub of energy and excitement for designers worldwide, and possesses the potential to become the next Beijing or Shanghai.
The most recent architect to stamp their mark on the south-western city is Steven Holl, whose practice has just completed the first museum in China fully dedicated to contemporary architecture - Nanjing Sifang Art Museum. Steven Holl Architects is rapidly securing its place in the Chinese architectural industry, amassing a bulging portfolio of both concept designs and completed projects. Schemes of note include the Horizontal Skyscraper (Vanke Center) in Shenzhen, Hangzhou Masterplan and the mixed-use Linked Hybrid in Beijing.
Nanjing Sifang Art Museum is heavily influenced by traditional Chinese artistry, and here the practice has deliberately referenced the difference between Western and Chinese painting, the latter of which was the grounding force behind this abstract cultural complex. Steven Holl Architects relates that the design: “explores the Parallel Perspective of Chinese space. Perspective is the fundamental historic difference between Western and Chinese painting. After the 13th Century Western painting developed vanishing points in fixed perspective.
“Chinese painters, although aware of perspective, rejected the single-vanishing point method, instead producing landscapes with ‘parallel perspectives’ in which the viewer travels within the painting. Shifting viewpoints, layers of space, expanses of mist and water, all characterise the deep alternating spatial mysteries of the composition of Chinese painting.”
Holl’s latest masterpiece may not encapsulate the complexities of this historical progression but it is certainly symbolic of its position in place and time. Located on the outskirts of the city, this cold and rather blocky structure can be spotted from miles around (as depicted in the images to the left) and offers far-reaching views from its uppermost viewing platform. The sky-lit volume at the apex of the museum is said to symbolise a figure, whose passage can be tracked through the winding channels in the units beneath, culminating at ‘in-position’ overlooking the buzzing city in the distance.
Totalling 3,000 sq ft of internal space, Nanjing Sifang Art Museum will open this spring as a gateway to the Chinese International Practical Exhibition of Architecture (CIPEA), with its inaugural display a medley of works from twenty international artists under the curatorial direction of Arata Isosaki. The creamy walls supported by two thick stilts will encase these compositions whilst offering uninterrupted views of the surrounding habitat, in an intimate gallery space that provides a private bubble from which the visitor may contemplate the artwork.
As the city prepares to host the 2014 Summer Youth Olympics, supporting cultural developments such as this will become imperative if Nanjing is to continue its development in contemporary architecture. The city is widely recognised as one of the earliest founded in China, with legends in the area stretching back to a fort entitled Yecheng created by Fu Chai, Lord of the State of Wu in 495 BCE. Over the last few years, contemporary structures by practices such as Perkins + Will (Chevron Headquarters) and 3GATTI ('Car Experience' - Automobile Museum) have begun to draw Nanjing into a world of architecture where cutting-edge design is not isolated from traditional Chinese concepts but reinforced by it.
Work is still being touched up on the landscape surrounding the Nanjing Sifang Art Museum, with the complete complex due to open on an unspecified date in the next few weeks.