National Art Museum of China (unbuilt)

Beijing, China, 2012

Our design for the National Art Museum of China expresses the spirit of the day, the optimism and dynamism of a nation surging forward. Our goal was to acknowledge the need for the museum of the 21st century to be extroverted: transparent, inviting, and visible to the city. Extroversion is a declaration of openness and access, inviting each member of society, young and old, rich and poor, to the National Museum of Art. At the same time the design for NAMoC must be rooted in the culture and heritage of China, and its historic collective memory. In the search for inspirations, we identified several complimentary themes. In Dunhuang, in the Mogao Caves, as in several other locations along the Silk Road, is one of the greatest treasures of ancient Chinese art, occupying hundreds of caves filled with well-preserved painting and sculpture, organized along the cliff, ordered by the force of geology – looking out towards the river and fertile fields of the region. We have adapted the linear sequence of the caves as the model for the organization of NAMoC, with its layered and linear terraces of public circulation. The terraces face west towards Beijing’s grand axis, to the view of the lake and the surrounding institutions. Galleries in the museum are discovered, as in Mogao, as a sequence of chambers, in which the visitor always returns to the western cliff, overlooking the valley, for orientation and reconnection to the city. The design for NAMoC evokes China’s great landscapes, as often represented in Chinese paintings. There are the mountains rising steeply above the valley floor, crowned by pagodas and connected by bridges. There are the steeply rising hillsides, often terraced to accommodate towns and villages. The hillside architecture resonates with the topography, blending and harmonious with the agricultural terraces, rice paddies and tea plantations, rising upwards towards the mountain top. Finally, there is the great tradition of Chinese gardens – elaborate, full of surprises, incorporating plant life, water and sculpture, providing places of intimacy and contemplation. The great monumental structures in Chinese architecture incorporate great roofs, expansive, steeply-descending from their ridges, providing shelter and shade. These great roofs are the tour de force of Chinese architecture, incorporating structural innovation and providing a unifying element synonymous with Chinese urbanism. NAMoC’s design is unified by a great roof descending from the ridge top, towards the great urban window facing the city to the West. The roof is both solid and translucent, playing a major role in the energy strategy for the building.

Project Type: Museum

Client: National Art Museum of China

Size: 1280000


Structural Engineering - ARUP

Environmental / Systems Design - Atelier 10

Exhibit Planning - Lord Cultural Resources

Cultural Consultant - Hao Sheng