Studio Link-Arc navigates through the twists and turns of Nanjing Art Center

Nanjing Art Center by Studio Link-Arc employs sinuous geometries and parametric architecture to shape a metallic form, promoting technology in the Nanjing New Town.

by Sunena V MajuPublished on : Jan 24, 2023

Architecture overlaps with almost every other creative field. Over the years, we have witnessed architecture as a profession that marries art and design as well as seen interventions where architecture becomes music, literature, philosophy, theatre, and even philanthropy. While most of these interventions often result in creating a new typology, one that offers a new perspective for the user group, the coming together of architecture and origami has resulted in some of the most intriguing designs in the world. In the architecture industry, this inspiration takes shape in different styles—fluidic, organic, curvilinear, parametric, tectonic, more along similar lines. Owing to the constraints this typology holds, right from concept to construction, these architectural styles have always generated curiosity and questions.

An extension of this typology is the monumental form of Nanjing Art Center, that at first glance appears to be a futuristic ship, almost like a sculptural steel volume, ready to set sail. Beyond the symbolic aesthetics, the separate parts—a parametric facade design with fractal lines, sinuous geometries, saddle-shaped surface, folding walls, 90-degree twists and a fluidic merge of wall and floor—integrating into the whole, create intrigue. While the diverse parts may initially be invisible, New York-based Studio Link-Arc’s experimentation with form and design guides the user to not only explore the space but dive into the design process of creating it.

  • The Nanjing Art Center is located at the southernmost tip of Nanjing New Town, where three rivers intersect to create a landform | Nanjing Art Center | Studio Link-Arc | STIRworld
    The Nanjing Art Center is located at the southernmost tip of Nanjing New Town, where three rivers intersect to create a landform Image: Qingshan Wu
  • Located in the heart of Nanjing’s new Central Business District, the Nanjing Art Center has a collection of noble art and new lifestyles | Nanjing Art Center | Studio Link-Arc | STIRworld
    Located in the heart of Nanjing’s new Central Business District, the Nanjing Art Center has a collection of noble art and new lifestyles Image: Qingshan Wu
  • The design is defined by an architectural strategy that unifies architecture, landscape, and public space | Nanjing Art Center | Studio Link-Arc | STIRworld
    The design is defined by an architectural strategy that unifies architecture, landscape, and public space Image: Qingshan Wu

In the southernmost tip of Nanjing New Town, China, the site of the art centre rests amid a densely developed zone and presents a collection of noble art and new lifestyles. Transcending the conventionality of theoretical concepts, for the Nanjing Art Center, the architects turned to form to derive the primary concept, a different approach from the concept of 'form follows function.’ Adapting to the landscape of the context and the three rivers that form the New Town, the design originated from a series of sinuous folding walls, which twist 90 degrees in sections, thereby combining the walls and floor into a single gesture. Multiplying and overlapping the singularity of the turns and folds, thus formed, the final structure is an amalgamation of many curvaceous spaces and fluidic surfaces.

  • The design concept originates from a series of sinuous folding walls which twist 90 degrees in section to combine wall and floor into a single gesture | Nanjing Art Center | Studio Link-Arc | STIRworld
    The design concept originates from a series of sinuous folding walls which twist 90 degrees in section to combine wall and floor into a single gesture Image: Qingshan Wu
  • The process of turning and folding aims to generate rich spatial experiences that connects the interior and exterior | Nanjing Art Center | Studio Link-Arc | STIRworld
    The process of turning and folding aims to generate rich spatial experiences that connects the interior and exterior Image: Qingshan Wu
  • The unique approach of Studio Link-Arc to employ fluidic surfaces turns the building into a unified and complete form | Nanjing Art Center | Studio Link-Arc | STIRworld
    The unique approach of Studio Link-Arc to employ fluidic surfaces turns the building into a unified and complete form Image: Qingshan Wu

To realise the curved form in steel, the architects adopted space truss as the main structural member. Often, due to the lean nature and malleability of steel, parametrically designed stainless steel panels are used in shaping space trusses for fluidic structures. However, this structural approach makes the walls and slab thicker than normal, leading to the building appearing as a huge mass visually. To break this overwhelming volume, the architects introduced extensive glazed windows, thereby, balancing the solid-void relationship in the facade and form. The voids, thus created and covered in glass, enable the flow of ample natural light to the interiors. The sinuous folding walls that merge with the wall and ceiling navigate this natural light in a flow, creating an interesting play of light and shadow in the interior design.

  • Nanjing Art Center: process sketches | Nanjing Art Center | Studio Link-Arc | STIRworld
    Nanjing Art Center: process sketches Image: Courtesy of Studio Link-Arc
  • Nanjing Art Center: design process of deriving the form | Nanjing Art Center | Studio Link-Arc | STIRworld
    Nanjing Art Center: design process of deriving the form Image: Courtesy of Studio Link-Arc

The process of creating fluidic structures is often described by architects as 'solving' the design. This mathematical expression is rooted in the fact that spaces that twist and fold beyond 90 degrees create white spaces or negative spaces, creating a challenge in spatial planning and circulation. At Nanjing Art Centre, the team of architects at Studio Link-Arc solved the circulation by restricting the curves and folds in the interiors. While the front facade of the art centre lends the impression that the whole structure is a manifestation of many curved spaces, the presence of curves reduces as one navigates from the entrance to the other end of the building, never completely vanishing. The curved surfaces, which neither dominate nor disappear, help users perceive the space in a balanced symmetry. In places, the ceiling flows into the walls and then into the floor, turning the building into a unified form reminding the visitors of the exterior facade and reinstating the initial character of the building.

  • Nanjing Art Center: space truss detail | Nanjing Art Center | Studio Link-Arc | STIRworld
    Nanjing Art Center: space truss detail Image: Courtesy of Studio Link-Arc
  • Nanjing Art Center: exploded views of the facade design | Nanjing Art Center | Studio Link-Arc | STIRworld
    Nanjing Art Center: exploded views of the facade design Image: Courtesy of Studio Link-Arc
  • Nanjing Art Center: physical model | Nanjing Art Center | Studio Link-Arc | STIRworld
    Nanjing Art Center: physical model Image: Courtesy of Studio Link-Arc

Similar to a river that thrusts and flows fiercely amid the rocks slowly finding calmness in the flat banks, the curved nature of Nanjing Art Center also moves from a dynamic outer skin to a comparatively minimal indoor space. “The experience of wandering between these spaces shares a spiritual connection with the experience of lingering in traditional eastern gardens. By applying a limited number of sinuous geometries and a clearly defined circulation strategy, the building can be understood as a contemplative sequence of connected spaces,” share the architects.

  • The experience of wandering between the interior spaces attempts at recreating the experience of lingering in traditional eastern gardens | Nanjing Art Center | Studio Link-Arc | STIRworld
    The experience of wandering between the interior spaces attempts at recreating the experience of lingering in traditional eastern gardens Image: Qingshan Wu
  • By applying a limited number of sinuous geometries and circulation strategy, the building can be understood as a contemplative sequence of connected spaces | Nanjing Art Center | Studio Link-Arc | STIRworld
    By applying a limited number of sinuous geometries and circulation strategy, the building can be understood as a contemplative sequence of connected spaces Image: Qingshan Wu
  • The interior surfaces are defined by a palette of wood and metal that extends the material strategy of the exterior form | Nanjing Art Center | Studio Link-Arc | STIRworld
    The interior surfaces are defined by a palette of wood and metal that extends the material strategy of the exterior form Image: Qingshan Wu

While the form imparts a lot of excitement and curiosity in the building, the interiors of Nanjing Art Centre mellow down this dramatic introduction. On one hand, the minimal interior flows along the balanced expression of futurism—which the architects hope to impart to the region—on the other hand, it brings back the age-old question of white spaces created by curved structures. "Defined by an architectural strategy that unifies architecture, landscape, and public space, the Nanjing Art Center will become an iconic presence in the region and will create a new 'living room' for the city," shares Studio Link-Arc.

  • The interior surfaces are defined by a palette of wood and metal that extends the material strategy of the exterior form | Nanjing Art Center | Studio Link-Arc | STIRworld
    The metallic form of the project aims to promote a sense of technology and optimism in line with the aspirations of surrounding urban neighbourhood Image: Qingshan Wu

Bringing together different parts of the structure into a single whole, the building is a superficial entity resting on a contemporary garden. Most architectural structures aim at blending into their context, some naturally and some forcefully, but Nanjing Art Center voluntarily contrasts its landscape. The presence of the structure in the landscape design for an upcoming urban neighbourhood seems like a prologue to the developments and changes awaiting the New Town.

  • The experience of wandering between the interior spaces attempts at recreating the experience of lingering in traditional eastern gardens | Nanjing Art Center | Studio Link-Arc | STIRworld
    Nanjing Art Center: Floor plans Image: Courtesy of Studio Link-Arc
  • Nanjing Art Center: Section through the exhibition area | Nanjing Art Center | Studio Link-Arc | STIRworld
    Nanjing Art Center: Section through the exhibition area Image: Courtesy of Studio Link-Arc
  • Nanjing Art Center: Section through the open reception area | Nanjing Art Center | Studio Link-Arc | STIRworld
    Nanjing Art Center: Section through the open reception area Image: Courtesy of Studio Link-Arc

Project Details

Name: Nanjing Art Center
Location: Nanjing New Town, China
Architects: Studio Link-Arc
Building Area: 1176 sq.m
Year of Completion: 2019
Client: China Resources Land Co., Ltd
Chief Architect: Yichen Lu
Project Manager: Kenneth Namkung
Project Architect: Fupeng Mei
Project Team: Jiabo Xu, Hyungsun Choi, Hang Li, Yoko Fujita, Yishuang Guo
Structural Design: WS (XingJian Engineering Co., Ltd)
Curtain Wall Consultant: DADI Façade Co., Ltd
Parametric Consultant: Satorou from ATLV
Interior Design: YU STUDIO
Landscape Design: Metrostudio Landscape
Local Design Institute: Nanjing Architectural Design & Research Institute Co., Ltd
General Contractor: China Resources Construction, Co., Ltd

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