Ordos Museum 鄂尔多斯博物馆 – MAD Architects

Kangbashi, Minzu Rd, Ordos
Inner Mongolia, China
Email: ordosmuseum@sohu.com
Phone: +86 0477-8390997
closed on: Mondays
Museum Type: Anthropology / ethnography, History / City
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The Ordos Museum (鄂尔多斯博物馆) in China is a museum dedicated to the history and traditions of Inner Mongolia.

The museum, completed in 2011, is housed in a spectacular 440,000-square-foot building designed by China-based MAD Architects, inspired by the forms of the Gobi desert nearby.
The museum galleries, through artifacts, videos, and installations, present the history of the Ordos region as well as the heritage and culture of the Mongolian people.

The museum, which is also a research center, organizes special events, conferences, workshops, and educational activities.

The architecture of the Ordos Museum by MAD

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The Ordos region photographed from the Space Shuttle Endeavour, image courtesy of NASA

The Ordos region in Mongolia is a land of contrasts, a territory about as large as Ireland where the ancient traditions of a nomadic people and China’s impetuous modernization try to coexist, where mountain chains overlook majestic deserts, and cities, developed around the exceptional natural resources of the region, should cope with a harsh climate where sandstorms are common.

The Ordos Museum was commissioned in 2005 to China-based international design practice MAD by the local government to become the centerpiece of the major expansion of Ordos city, the capital of the region. The museum is aimed to celebrate the history of the city, the art and culture of the Mongolian people as well as to symbolically connect heritage and the future.

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The architectural concept 
MAD Architects designed the 41,000-square-foot museum as a giant pod, inspired by both the landscape of the Gobi desert nearby, and the geodesic domes conceived by Buckminster Fuller in the 1940s.

To withstand the cold winter climate and sandstorms typical of the area, the convex, organic, envelope of the building is made in polished aluminum, and, metaphorically speaking, is also a sort of shield, protecting the history of Ordos from the uncertainty that arises from the current, frantic, transformation of the city.


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On the other hand, such contrasts inspired MAD to create a dynamic divergence between the exterior and the interior of the museum. While from the outside, the building is characterized by its brown, polished, resilient cladding, almost a geological crust; from the inside, it is an airy, bright, lactescent cave. This cavernous space, resembling a geological formation excavated by water, is illuminated through several skylights and crossed by narrow bridges, connecting the various parts of the museum and the galleries where local history, art, and traditions are presented. The large “oculus”. that marks the southern facade of the museum. provides lighting to a full-height hall, housing a winter garden, and used as a gathering space for the museum staff and research team.


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The challenge to realize a building so complex and ambitious, which requires both architects and contractors to push their capabilities beyond usual limits, somehow resembles the effort made by Louis the Great with the Versailles Castle, which was aimed not only to get an art masterpiece but, even more, to foster a quantum leap in France’s capabilities.
Similarly, MAD’s Ordos museum testifies how intensely China, through cutting-edge realizations, is more and more pursuing a world-leading position in design and building excellence.

Project details
Location: Ordos, China
Typology: Museum
Site Area: 27,760 sqm
Building Area: 41, 227 sqm
Building height: 40 m

Architectural design: MAD Architects
Directors: Ma Yansong, Yosuke Hayano, Dang Qun
Design Team: Shang Li, Andrew C. Bryant, Howard Jiho Kim, Matthias Helmreich, Xiang Ling, Linda Stannieder, Zheng Tao, Qin Lichao, , Sun Jieming, Yin Zhao, Du Zhijian, Yuan Zhongwei, Yuan Ta, Xie Xinyu, Liu Weiwei, Felipe Escudero, Sophia Tang, Diego Perez, Art Terry, Jtravis B Russett, Dustin Harris

Associate Engineers: China Institute of Building Standard Design & Research
Mechanical Engineer:  The Institute of Shanxi Architectural Design and Research
Façade/cladding Consultants: SuP Ingenieure GmbH, Melendez & Dickinson Architects
Construction Contractor: Huhehaote Construction Co., Ltd
Façade Contractor: Zhuhai King Glass Engineering CO.LTD

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Images courtesy of MAD Architects
Photos: Iwan Baan, courtesy of MAD Architects
Additional Aerial Image courtesy of NASA

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