Success for the Ordos Museum

Monday 22 Sep 2014

Protective aluminium shell wins MAD architects the Metal in Architecture Award

Congratulations to MAD architects on winning the WAN Metal in Architecture Award for their Ordos Museum in Inner Mongolia, China. Six shortlisted entries were discussed and assessed in great detail, and this futuristic design stood out as particularly impressive for its use of metal in architecture, sending the judges in deep discussion.

Influenced by Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic domes, the futuristic Ordos Museum of Inner Mongolia was designed to be the irregular nucleus for the new town of Ordos. Its smooth uneven shape makes it appear rock-like in the Gobi desert location and the museum appears to float over a waving sand hill. It was metaphorically designed to ‘protect’ the treasures of the museum from the unknown growth of the new city, as Ordos continued to develop with a strict geometric masterplan.

The 41,227 sq m building has two parts; the interior main structure is steel and a reinforced concrete structure and the exterior is a single layer grid shell structure, and the WAN AWARDS judges were suitably impressed with how the architects had laced both structures together to achieve the perfect structural balance and an unusual shape.

The exterior is enveloped in polished aluminium metal louvers to reflect and dissolve the planned surroundings, and is both striking and resistant to the frequent sandstorms. The WAN AWARDS judges were impressed with the cladding work, with remote judge Kenneth Turner stating that ‘this is a very successful, dynamic usage of metal cladding on a sculptural built form and Maximiliano Arrocet similarly commenting that ‘the technique to clad something like this is very neatly solved. Very talented’.

The interior lets in swathes of natural light through skylights and a glazed roof, which is channelled through the building by luminescent walls. The museum itself is divided into several exhibition halls, defined by continuous curvilinear walls, all opening open onto the shared public space that runs through the museum.

Despite its heavy metal shell, the apparent weightlessness of the form enables the museum to bubble up out of the landscape. MAD architects’ intelligent handling of the material and the memorable form were highly praised by the jury panel, and the project has been widely admired by journalistic publications since opening in 2011.

In selecting matte aluminium rings for the external façade, MAD architects has presented a futuristic shell which is both protective and memorable. The team looked to generate an ‘alternative timeless’ design and has done so by blending references to natural elements such as canyons and desert forms with contemporary material choices and the integration of modern elements such as sky bridges for smooth circulation.

We are thrilled to present the WAN Metal in Architecture Award to the deserving team at MAD architects.

Sarah Hammad
WAN AWARDS Co-ordinator

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