by Jincy IypeSep 02, 2022
In the city of Nanping, within China’s Fujian Province stretches the majestic, spindle-shaped Shunchang Museum designed by The Architectural Design & Research Institute of Zhejiang University Co., Ltd. (UAD), bridging the land and the sea, the mountains and the people, the built and the natural. Defined by its windowless, almost icy demeanour, the cultural architecture is arranged simply by virtue of being perched by the riverside, with the urban Shunchang County in proximity, celebrating local heritage and built on a "people-centred" principle. Its spatial and architectural program comprises a museum, an urban planning exhibition centre, offices, and cultural relics storerooms, along with an auditorium, book bar and café.
With the Longshan Mountain range for company and the Futun stream passing gently through, the bleached monolith was not merely created as a museum that collects or displays exhibits, but as a dynamic, ever-growing, built catalyst that balances and secures a steady relationship between the local residents' daily lives with the unique neo-urban context.
For the city where it resides, the museum itself is an exhibit, platform and symbol. It carries nostalgic sentiments of its local people and interprets the past and future of the prevailing local culture. – Dong Danshen and Wu Zhenling, Lead Architects, UAD
The linear plot enjoys a notable position, stretching in the east-west direction, with its south side facing the aged mountains and overlooking the Monument to the People’s Heroes in the distance, while its north face adjoins a waterfront walking trail along the flowing river.
"As a common county-level museum, Shunchang Museum accommodates no well-known collections (yet), so the entry point and focus of the architectural design were shifted to let the building integrate into the citizens’ daily life, to carry and represent their memories and sentiments. This place embraces the imposing view of the mountains, waters and landscape, evoking a sense of strong nostalgia," they continue. The landmark architecture took five years from its conceptualisation to completion.
"Connectivity" and "openness" became key criteria outlining the museum's architecture and design, aiming to foster connections between humans, the built and the immediate landscape, both the natural and artificial. UAD thus formed the core of the museum as a "traversable urban garden", opening itself to the city in multiple dimensions and forming a bridge between the mountain and the stream.
Thus ensued a riverside form that introduces itself as an "urban living room", blending into the busy city fabric in an "open gesture". This was accomplished by lifting the ground floor to form a massive transitional space, accommodating heavy footfall and extending itself to the stream’s bank. UAD paints a vivid picture as they describe the plaza being "enlivened by skateboarding boys, singing buskers and dancing groups. It provides a venue for the citizens’ daily life activities and cultural events, and in turn is enriched by the citizens."
A breathing “urban living room”
An aged tree on the site was retained, taking new residence in the centre of the “urban living room”, lending naturality and softness to the solidity of the contemporary architecture. The open-air vestibule becomes a funnel for sunshine and breeze, creating a visual highlight and breaking the coldness of the monogamous steel, glass and aluminium materiality while enhancing a sense of affinity for the Chinese architecture. "The big tree is a symbol of the site’s memory. While the varying external environment injects new vitality into urban life and the presence of the new architecture enriches the citizens’ activities, the giant tree is a witness that carries stories of the small county both in the past and future," the Chinese architects relay.
The “urban living room” also formed the genesis for the Shunchang Museum’s contemporary form and spatial sequence, organising its main entrances, circulatory routes, transitionary as well as resting spaces, while the temporary exhibition hall and auditorium are kept open for independent public usage. The pathways for the museum and the urban planning exhibition centre were drafted based on their featured comprehensive halls, resulting in a comprehensive visiting circulation route.
The exhibition halls arranged within the three massive floors of the museum (1F to 3F) are organised and connected by the comprehensive hall in combination with stairs. The urban planning exhibition centre is designed with a ramp to guide the visiting route, and link the exhibition functions on all three levels.
The connecting space between the museum and the urban planning exhibition centre is taken up by the cultural and book bar, providing a relaxed setting for guests. The ramp here spirals upwards and extends towards the rooftop terrace, which connects with the riverside walking trail and helps integrate the building’s interior circulation route into the city directly. "This is a key feature of architectural space organisation, which enables people to identify intangible spaces through the tangible internal and external architectural surfaces," says UAD, explaining the spatial planning of the museum's design.
The lengthy, many-stepped staircase links the riverside walkway to the building’s rooftop, which transforms into a massive stage boasting of panoramic views of the fascinating scenery of the august mountainous county. To create a completely accessible rooftop, UAD arranged architectural equipment reasonably - the atrium surrounded by the ghostly white external walls not only satisfies daylight influx for the office rooms but also meets the required ventilation needs for the equipment rooms. The external units of the central air-conditioning system are set in appropriate outdoor positions in a concentrated way, ensuring no equipment is installed on the rooftop, providing an uncluttered, handsome space for contemplation and relaxation.
In order to maximise the "openness" of Shunchang Museum’s urban living pocket and introduce natural light into the vast stretching atrium, UAD adopted a “frame-shear wall structure”, supported by shear walls on both sides. The structural system is defined through curved trusses that span almost 50 meters, which creates an open column-free space on the ground floor. This oval-shaped foyer essays the soul of the "urban living room", according to the architects.
"However, the large void may cause incomplete structural space. To avoid this, the atrium’s east side is pulled up by short trusses, while its west side stretches downwards to connect with the ground floor, subtly realising the initial design concept,” they elaborate.
The material and colour palette adopted are successful in creating continuity through the museum to its magnificent, larger-than-life outdoor context - kept clean and minimal, the interior design too features a monochrome aesthetic, presenting a solemn yet warm affair, gently connecting the elegance of the indoor spaces with the natural, scenic beauty of the outside.
Modern and stylistically simple, the material palette of stones, granite and glass accompany triangular specular stainless steel panels with a side length of 1,200 mm, applied to the suspended ceiling of the atrium. In daylight, the reflective ceiling produces a mesmerising, mottled light and shadow effect, simultaneously generating a distinct contrast with the plain external walls dressed in rough natural textures. In addition to echoing the daily activities of the "urban living room", the mirror-like ceiling also reflects the magnanimous mountains and waterbody, "making people feel as if they have walked into a painting," says UAD.
Simplistic and clean granite panels clothe the main curving body of the Shinchang Museum, apart from the walls of the comprehensive hall, providing it with its distinct, fair appearance, akin to a snow-covered highland. Each piece is cut manually, with a minimum thickness kept controlled at 40mm to meet the mounting requirements of curtain wall bolts. The hand-cutting of the granite resulted in random spontaneous textures, achieving a harmonious and unified effect once wall-mounted and seen cohesively. “The arbitrary rough wall textures respond to the local mountains, revealing a unique charm between grace and solidity,” share Danshen and Zhenling.
Name: Shunchang Museum
Location: Tashan Road, Shunchang County, Nanping City, Fujian Province, China
Area: 10,138.2 sqm (above ground: 9,938.4 sqm; underground: 199.8 sqm)
Year of completion: 2021
Client: Shunchang Urban Investment and Construction Development Co., Ltd.
Architect and Design firm: The Architectural Design & Research Institute of Zhejiang UniversityCo., Ltd. (UAD)
Design team: Dong Danshen, Wu Zhenling (Lead architects); Zhao Bo, Zhang Jiachen, Yan Hui, Zhao Lichen (Architectural design); Zhou Jianlu, Nan Jingjing, Pan Jiafu, Hu Bo (Structural design)
Construction firm: CSCEC Strait Construction and Development Co., Ltd.
Water supply & drainage design: Wang Yibei, Zhang Nan
HVAC design: Ning Taigang, Zhang Weilin, Chen Haijun
Electrical design: Yang Wenzheng, Yu Kan
Smart design: Ma Jian, Jiang Bing, Ni Gaojun
Curtain wall design: Shi Jiongjiong, Wang Jieneng, Wang Jianzhong
Interior design: Li Jingyuan, Hu Xu, Lu Xiaoling, Fang Yu
Landscape design: Wu Weiling, Xu Conghua, Zhang Chi, He Ying
Lighting design: Pang Xiaoxiao, Yu Yuanming, Xiao Shuzheng