Sifang Art Museum, Nanjing – Steven Holl Architects
The Sifang Art Museum is a private museum and an iconic building designed by American architect Steven Holl, located in the city of Nanjing, China.
Sifang Art Museum, Nanjing, view from south-east; photo © Iwan Baan, courtesy of Steven Holl Architects
The museum is part of the Contemporary International Practical Exhibition of Architecture (CIPEA), a “collection” of twenty buildings designed by some of the most acclaimed contemporary architects – including SANAA, Odile Decq, Sean Godsell, Mansilla & Tunon, David Adjaye, Ai Weiwei, and Arata Isozaki – situated in a 115-acre park in the heart of Nanjing, which was the capital city of China during the Ming Dynasty.
Completed in November 2013, Steven Holl’s 30,000-square-foot museum is highly distinguishable (and world-renowned) for its peculiar winding form.
The building consists of two parts: a solid, opaque “base” building which supports a spiraling, translucent volume.
The two-story podium building, made of bamboo-formed brown concrete, contains the museum’s lobby, visitor facilities, storage areas, offices, a cafe, a shop, two galleries, and a large multi-purpose “forum” space on two levels.
The upper volume houses a c-shaped gallery (known as “Floating Gallery”) and a multi-functional event hall closed by a huge panoramic window on its south-eastern side.
This hovering volume is clad with translucent white glass panels, which further emphasize the different aspect of the upper part and the lower part of the building, especially at night.
Sifang Art Museum, view from east (photo © Iwan Baan), section, ground floor plan, first-floor plan, and 3D model; images courtesy of Steven Holl Architects
The bold structural concept of the Sifang Art Museum, especially of its upper part, was made possible by designing a sort of spiraling “tube” consisting of a steel framework supported by three pillars, two of which are colored in black so that the building looks like it is hovering free into the air.
Holl’s idea was to create a “museum of the 21st century” in which points of perspective constantly change throughout the building, hence its spiraling, slant shape.
Views of the translucent cladding at dusk, and of the structural framework under construction; photos © Iwan Baan.
Built on a strongly sloped terrain, the museum is surrounded by a sequence of natural and artificial elements – bamboo rows, water mirrors, and several black concrete walls – conceived of to ”confound your idea of where the vanishing point is, and gives you a feeling of mystery about the space”, as Steven Holl says.
View of the landscaping, and a detail of the bamboo-formed concrete walls; photos © Iwan Baan.
The Sifang Art Museum holds a collection of contemporary art gathered by art collector Lu Xun. The collection comprises about 350 works, 50 of which are site-specific, by international and Chinese artists including Maurizio Cattelan, Paul Chan, Zang Enli, William Kentridge, Haegue Yang, Zhao Yao, Takashi Murakami, Yutaka Sone, Maria Taniguchi, Luc Tuymans, and Danh Vo, among others.
Pieces from the collection are displayed on a rotational basis in temporary thematic exhibitions.
The program of activities of the museum includes special exhibitions, live performances, film screenings, talks, and special events.
Interior views of the lobby and the upper gallery; photos © Iwan Baan, courtesy of Steven Holl Architects / Sifang Art Museum
Cover image: the Sifang Art Museum at dusk; photo © Iwan Baan
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