Understatement drives the renovation of Song Art Museum by Vermilion Zhou

Sans ornamentation, Vermilion Zhou's adaptive reuse of a Victorian clubhouse in Beijing, China, into the all-white Song Art Museum unifies oriental and western design thought.

by Jincy IypePublished on : Sep 02, 2021

Vermilion Zhou Design Group’s renovation of a traditional Victorian-style building in Beijing, China, into the snow-white Song Art Museum begets a tale of complete transformation. The owner considered the original structure obsolete in its design and architecture, and so desired a form devoid of excessive, or even subtle ornamentation, giving rise to its bare skin and insides that focused on being accessible and functional. Intended as a public “container of art”, Song Art Museum is an exhibition platform with art as a mainstay and the container as its supplement. “We’d like to believe that the new form can be replicated in the future, as architecture needs to be flexible at its core, ever ready for possibilities,” shares the firm led by Chinese architects, Ray Chou and Vera Chu.

The all-white Song Art Museum | Song Art Museum designed by Vermilion Zhou Design Group | STIRworld
The all-white Song Art Museum Image: Zhi Xia, Jonathan Leijonhufvud
The exterior sits as a white stroke in the green landscape | Song Art Museum designed by Vermilion Zhou Design Group | STIRworld
The exterior sits as a white stroke in the green landscape Image: Zhi Xia, Jonathan Leijonhufvud

The original Victorian clubhouse was fitted with gaudy red brick facades and a horse-riding lawn, now transmuted into flat grassed, manicured gardens with few bushes that sit in rich contrast to the all-white museum. Excessive signages and colouring were stripped off, the decoration subtracted to the mere outline of the building with protruding A-frame roofs. While the exterior sits like a white stroke in the green landscape, the interiors see colour in the form of warm wood flooring, glass screens and brass railings, and not to mention, the resident artworks.

Inside one of the timber lined volumes | Song Art Museum designed by Vermilion Zhou Design Group | STIRworld
Inside one of the timber lined volumes Image: Zhi Xia, Jonathan Leijonhufvud

Leaving out blank spaces is considered one of the most relevant artistic concepts in Chinese paintings, while clean geometric forms represent a more contemporary, western building ideal – the Song Art Museum thus swiftly combines features of both, oriental and western art and design thought. “Our first step was to remove all the necklaces, earrings, clothing, and decorations to show the structure in its purest, basal form,” says Chou.

  • The pure white form references Chinese paintings, where leaving blank spaces is the highest artistic concept | Song Art Museum designed by Vermilion Zhou Design Group | STIRworld
    The pure white form references Chinese paintings, where leaving blank spaces is the highest artistic concept Image: Zhi Xia, Jonathan Leijonhufvud
  • The stripped, minimally geometric volumes draw from Western contemporary architecture | Song Art Museum designed by Vermilion Zhou Design Group | STIRworld
    The stripped, minimally geometric volumes draw from western contemporary architecture Image: Zhi Xia, Jonathan Leijonhufvud

Besides planting close to 200 pine trees on site, Vermilion Zhou reorganised the dialogue between the building and existing lush greens to shape the entire base like a long Chinese scroll unfurled on the ground. The adaptive reuse employs the whitest of white to sheath the form, intended to present the structure as a clean slate, a blank canvas not only to host the artworks but as a metaphor of life being impassive, intelligent and meditative to the happenings of the world.

  • The form is a blank canvas to host art and metaphorically face life | Song Art Museum designed by Vermilion Zhou Design Group | STIRworld
    The form is a blank canvas to host art and metaphorically face life Image: Zhi Xia, Jonathan Leijonhufvud
  • Inside the VIP pavilion on the far end of the rectangular plot | Song Art Museum designed by Vermilion Zhou Design Group | STIRworld
    Inside the VIP pavilion on the far end of the rectangular plot Image: Zhi Xia, Jonathan Leijonhufvud

On the rectangular plot, the final museum architecture is informed as two main white volumes linked by a glass corridor, and white flat stages forming pathways on the grass – the main mass rests low flanked by a covered ‘winter garden’ on its right, and a showroom structure with a central courtyard to the left, and a VIP pavilion resting at the far end. The art gallery is presented as the main building, the restoration giving way to clean archways on its sides, a nod to the style of the oriental location.

  • The glass and wood lined insides sit in warm contrast to the all-white exterior | Song Art Museum designed by Vermilion Zhou Design Group | STIRworld
    The glass and wood lined insides sit in warm contrast to the all-white exterior Image: Zhi Xia, Jonathan Leijonhufvud
  • One of the two main volumes with a glass screen | Song Art Museum designed by Vermilion Zhou Design Group | STIRworld
    One of the two main volumes with a glass screen Image: Zhi Xia, Jonathan Leijonhufvud

Spread over a basement, first and second floor, the minimal, stripped-down spaces of the gallery are brightly lit via expansive glass windows and skylights. The three levels help set a “vertical openness” for the tidy, reflective and pensive interior design, extending the renewed museum’s simple dimensions and raising its existence as a presentation of art.

  • A fair toned timber stairwell leads down to the basement; one of the exhibits is accompanied by a skylight's shadow | Song Art Museum designed by Vermilion Zhou Design Group | STIRworld
    A fair toned timber stairwell leads down to the basement; one of the exhibits is accompanied by a skylight's shadow Image: Zhi Xia, Jonathan Leijonhufvud
  • Art gallery | Song Art Museum designed by Vermilion Zhou Design Group | STIRworld
    Art gallery Image: Zhi Xia, Jonathan Leijonhufvud

“Song Art Museum distils itself, transforming everything into geometry and purity, and takes “non-action” from the outside to within. What we offer is a kind of "clean" existence. When “contemporary art” enters various forms, they can display their vocabulary and vitality without scruples. The courtyard is surrounded by pine trees, providing the external vitality of the Song Art Museum. The scenery becomes the breath of both the inside and outside, and the oriental freehand brushwork also becomes the natural rhythm of mutual reflection between traditional and modern architecture,” concludes Vermilion Design.

Some remnants of the old structure | Song Art Museum designed by Vermilion Zhou Design Group | STIRworld
Some remnants of the old structure Image: Zhi Xia, Jonathan Leijonhufvud

Project Details

Name: Song Art Museum
Location: Grass Road, Tianzhu Town, Shunyi District, Bejing, China
Architect: Vermilion Zhou Design Group
Creative Director, Lead Designer: Kuang Ming (Ray) Chou
Architecture Design: Hai Shi, Jing Huang
Interior Design: Garvin Hung, Jamie Pai
Lighting Design: Vera Chu
FF&E Design: Mavis Huang, Boyuan Ling

Comments

Comments Added Successfully!

About Author

Recommended

LOAD MORE
see more articles
2470,2572,2504,2482,2373

Keep it stirring

get regular updates SIGN UP

Collaborate with us

This site uses cookies to offer you an improved and personalised experience. If you continue to browse, we will assume your consent for the same.
LEARN MORE AGREE