As Western painters developed vanishing points from a fixed perspective after the 13th Century, Chinese painters rejected the single-point vanishing method. Instead of focusing on single point, Chinese painters chose to acknowledge ‘parallel perspectives’, which allowed viewers to travel within the painting. This theory of Chinese painting inspired Holl when he designed the Nanjing Museum of Art & Architecture – a series of shifting viewpoints, layers, passages, and paths that morph and change. The museum serves as a field with multiple parallel views that encourage the eyes and eventually the body to flow through the space.
The project is located on a rural site at the gateway to the Contemporary International Practical Exhibition of Architecture in the lush green landscape of the Pearl Spring near Nanjing, China. The foundation for the museum is a green field with diagonal paths. Views are directed by concrete walls, and straight passages on the ground floor ascend into winding passages elevate the linear volume above the floor plane. This upper gallery unwinds in a counterclockwise direction, leading to views of the city of Nanjing in the distance.