A unique art museum design has opened its doors in Northern China. Created by renowned architecture firm Foster + Partners, the Datong Art Museum appears as a collection of intersecting pyramidal forms surrounded by landscape. Inspiration for the museum came from the idea of rocky mountain peaks. The building is one of four major structures designed for Datong New City’s cultural plaza.
“The museum is conceived as a social hub for people—an ‘urban living room' for Datong—that brings people, art and artists together in a space where they can interact,” says Luke Fox, Head of Studio at Foster + Partners. “At the heart of the museum, the Grand Gallery exemplifies this spirit with a generously scaled, flexible exhibition space designed to accommodate specially commissioned large-scale artworks as well as performance art and other events.”
Visitors enter the “urban living room” by following diagonal paths created in the landscaping of the site. The walkways lead them through ramps and into a sunken plaza used for outdoor events. Once inside, the mezzanine provides views down into the Grand Gallery. The area is approximately 37 meters, or over 120 feet tall, and allows guests to appreciate much of the museum’s work all at once. More exhibition areas with climate-controlled spaces can be found along the perimeter of the museum.
The architects took special care when designing spaces for education. These include a children’s gallery with plenty of natural light, an education center, and a media library all to support the education program. Other areas in the museum can be used for special events and programs like lectures, exhibits, and even artists residencies.
Aside from the cultural benefit of this new institution for the city, the design of the museum itself makes it an icon for the area. The structure brings light and a column-free interior to the Grand Gallery but also enhances its surroundings. The color from the naturally oxidized steel plates, the intersecting pyramid concept, and the gesture of sinking the building make it feel like an elegant sculpture in Datong New City’s cultural plaza.