The recently released design for the new Sanxingdui Ancient Shu Cultural Heritage Museum is almost as mysterious as the stories within. Proposed by MAD Architects, it's also being called The Eyes of Sanxingdui. Comprising six wooden structures, the design is meant to merge with the landscape of Guanghan City in China’s Sichuan province. The forms of these buildings are inspired by the almond-shaped eyes of bronze and gold masks from a Bronze Age Sanxingdui civilization.
The designers were inspired by the unknown stories of these masks and allowed them to inform the design of the complex. says MAD Architects. “The global fascination with Sanxingdui lies in how little the wider world can comprehend about the ancient city’s geographical location, and the ancient Shu culture it represents.”
The museum’s complex covers an area of 90,000 square meters (970,000 square feet) and includes distinct eye-shaped buildings placed along the water. The first structure to the east will house a large visitor center while the other buildings will be used as exhibition spaces. Within the exhibitions, the iconic bronze masks–which are between 4,500 and 2,800 years old—will be displayed alongside other artifacts found on and near the site.
The layout of the site allows visitors to explore the area and understand the interior and the landscape as an overall experience. Visitors will wander through a connected green roof and look out at the site as they move between buildings.
The organization and materials of the buildings further allow us to understand the eyes as part of the landscape—instead of as an object placed on it. The architects describe the spiritual effect this gesture has at different times of the day. “After sunset, the six buildings are enlivened as torch-like eyes behind the bronzeware and golden masks of Sanxingdui, uniting the spirits and forms, allowing people in the museum to wander between history and the future.”