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The new Aranya Art Centre designed by Neri&Hu opens in China

Shanghai-based Neri&Hu evokes notions for art and communal space as they design an art centre for the developer group, Aranya.

by STIRworldPublished on : Jun 26, 2019

When enlightened developer Aranya asked Neri&Hu to design an art centre inside their seaside resort community, architects Lyndon Neri and Rosasana Hu of the Chinese design studio seized the opportunity to question the notions of space for art versus communal space. Aranya as a community has a strong emphasis on the spiritual nature of their lifestyle ideology, a oneness with the environment. So, the design scheme is as much about the internal courtyard, a communal space for the residents, as it is about the exhibition being displayed in the centre.

An exterior view of the building Image Credit: Pedro Pegenaute

Drawing inspiration from the seasonal ocean waters nearby - azure and calm in the summers, splintered ice through winter - the building design attempts to encapsulate the natural wonder of water at its core. The scheme maximises its outer footprint but carves out a pure conical geometry at the centre with a stepped amphitheatre at the base. The central void space can be reconfigured and used in many ways, like a water feature when filled with water, but also a functional performance and gathering place when the water is drained. The exhibition galleries above benefit from the public space integration, but it also makes the project much more than just a place for display - it is also a place for sharing.

  • Conceptual Sketches Image Credit: Lyndon Neri
  • Conceptual Sketches Image Credit: Lyndon Neri

Within the thick mass of the building volume is a series of interlocking spaces that visitors can meander freely in, slowly ascending, enjoying a choreographed journey with directed views both inward and outward. Gallery spaces are about the enjoyment of art. This project is no different in that regard; a spiralling path leads you through all the spaces, urging you onwards by the desire to see more. Starting at the bottom with a café, a multi-purpose gallery, and an outdoor amphitheatre, the path guides visitors through five distinct galleries, culminating at the rooftop where you get a 360-degree view of the activities below.

“It was exciting for us to work with Aranya on this project where we were able to explore a hybrid typology which combined design, art, and performance. The project pushes the boundaries of how architectural space deals with sensorial experiences in unexpected ways,” say Neri and Hu.

  • The amphitheatre Image Credit: Pedro Pegenaute
  • The amphitheatre Image Credit: Pedro Pegenaute

Composed primarily of various textured concretes, with and without aggregate, the façade and materiality of the building is heavy in nature, like a solid rock sitting firmly in the shifting environment. Smooth surfaces reflect the changing skies, while the moulded modular units pick up on the play of shadows throughout the day. Bronze elements act as accents on the heavy façade to catch light and draw attention to the entry of each gallery. Custom lighting and details add a touch of intricacy to the otherwise modest palette. In the evening, open modules allow light to shine through, the building is a jewel at the core of this seaside community.

(Text by Palak Maheshwari, intern at

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