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.
Recycled Old Hutong bricks from the destroyed courtyards in the center of Nanjing are used to pave the new courtyard of the museum. Bamboo, which previously grew on the site, was used to make forms for the black-stained concrete. Additionally, the museum utilizes geothermal heating and cooling as well as recycled storm water. The museum’s palette was limited to black and white to help show of the texture and color of the art exhibited within.
One of the first exhibits at the museum will feature the architecture of Steven Holl in China, including the design and construction of the Museum as well as the Linked Hybrid in Beijing.
Images ©Iwan Baan, Shu He & Steven Holl Architects