YINCHUAN – A scenery of lush wetlands and arid desert divided by the Yellow River is perhaps not the ideal setting for avid art culture – yet We Architech Anonymous (WAA) took on the challenge, designing a new museum of contemporary art in Yinchuan, China. Though the site is rich in ecological history and is rather complex, WAA has embraced these challenges, creating a site-specific concept and identity. The design approach is directly inspired by the vast wetlands that result from the ever-changing rivers due to floods. Approaching the design based on narratives solves one aspect yet excludes a key factor: the lack of art culture in the area. The architects state, ‘The lack of existing art context made it difficult to form a brief at the beginning but at the same time it allowed us a new angle to design the museum as a platform from the ground up.’
The smooth flow of the museum is crafted to respond to the geological forces of uploading and sediment erosion. Replicating the creases and textures of the surrounding area requires the use of parametric techniques during the design process. To embody the attributes within the site context, the façade creases conceptually, representing time through material sedimentation.
To obtain a seamless double curved surface, glass reinforced concrete is used, making it the first of its kind, on such a large scale project in China. The museum comprises over 1600 unique panels ranging from 8 to 40sqm. In a time where automation is at an all-time high, this re-awakens the spirit of craftsmanship. The three-storey museum consists of exhibition galleries, classrooms, a library and a theatre auditorium.
The firm intends to engage visitors to participate by ensuring openness, shortening the leap to art appreciation through educational and leisure programmes. This will connect the community and challenge locals to get involved in the open and optimistic environment. The overall experience through the architecture aims to focus on the visitors and for them to experience the traces of time with greater awareness. For now, the museum will open its doors to a land foreign to art culture; with hopes of potential growth, the architects believe ‘it was important to mark this place and this museum with a strong visual aesthetic which might act as a draw for people to gravitate to.’