Ordos Museum
by MAD


Chinese architects MAD have sent us new images of a museum they completed earlier this year in the city of Ordos, in the Gobi desert.

Ordos Museum by MAD

Shaped like a large undulating blob, the Ordos Museum is clad in polished metal tiles that are resistant to frequently occurring sandstorms.

Ordos Museum by MAD

Galleries inside the museum are housed in smaller blobs, connected by bridges.

Ordos Museum by MAD

Entrances on both sides of the building allow local residents to use the atrium as a through-route.

Ordos Museum by MAD

This isn't the first high-profile project in Ordos, the newly constructed city for a million people - artist Ai Weiwei masterplanned 100 private villas by different architects there back in 2008 – see all our stories about the project here.

Ordos Museum by MAD

Photography is by Iwan Baan. More images of this project can be found on his website.

Ordos Museum by MAD

Here's some more information from MAD:

MAD’s Ordos Museum Completes

Ordos Museum by MAD

Construction of the MAD designed Ordos Museum has recently been completed in fall 2011. Familiar yet distinct, the museum appears to have either landed in the desert from another world or to always have existed. From atop a dune- like urban plaza, the building is enriched with a convergence of naturalistic interiors, bathed in light. The result is a timeless architecture in a modern city of ruins.

Ordos Museum by MAD

Six years ago, the Inner Mongolia Ordos was an extended landscape of the majestic Gobi desert. Today, it is a urban centre mired in a common controversy in modern Chinese civilization: the conflict between the people's long standing traditions and their dreams of the future. Architects are asked to develop the urban landscape and yet need to be mindful of the delicate sustenance of minority cultures and its future potentials. In 2005, the local bureaucrats established a new master plan for its city development. Upon the initialization of this master plan, MAD was commissioned by the Ordos city government to conceive a museum to be a centerpiece to the new great city.

Ordos Museum by MAD

Influenced by Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic domes, MAD envisioned a mysterious abstract form capable of fostering an alternate, timeless development of Chinese tradition and future. Whilst the surface of this shape functions as a metal container critical to protect the interior from the harsh winters and frequent sand storms of the region, metaphorically this external layer operates as a shield protecting the precious culture and history of the city from the unknown growth of the city. The museum appears to float over a waving sand hill, a gesture saluting the landscapes which have now been supplanted by the streets and buildings of the new cityscape. This plaza is now a favorite amongst the locals who gather their families and friends to explore, play or lounge in the pleasant landscape.

Ordos Museum by MAD

Entering the museum presents visitors with a strong contrast to the exterior: an airy monumental cave flushed with natural light through skylights. The cave links to a canyon which carves out a void between the galleries and exhibition hall and is brightly illuminated at the top. Patrons maneuver along the base of these primitive surroundings and through the light across mid-air tectonic bridges, reminiscent of the intersection of the past and the future of the Gobi landscape. Visitors will repeatedly cross these sky bridges and reflect upon their journey from a variety of picturesque vantages.

Ordos Museum by MAD

The local community, as well, is encouraged to pass through the base of the central canyon which connects the two public entries at opposite ends without entering the exhibition hall or galleries. The varying internalized flows of circulation are guided by a succession of light and shadow, at times mysteriously shaded and occasionally brilliantly bright yet consistently engaging.

Ordos Museum by MAD

For the museum employees, a south facing, naturally lit interior garden is shared by the office and research programmes of the museum, creating a natural work environment.

The completion of the museum has provided the local citizens a place to embrace and reflect upon the fast paced development of their city. People meet organically in the naturalistic landscapes of the museum, an intersection of natural and human development.

Ordos Museum by MAD

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

Directors: Ma Yansong, Yosuke Hayano, Dang Qun
Design Team: Shang Li, Andrew C. Bryant, Howard Jiho Kim, Matthias Helmreich, 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

  • Papusie

    Wow, it's grand! but is it the same case, where architecture is used by its commissioners, merely to advertise their city?

  • Erick van Egeraat had a much more detailed blob in Breda, called the Mezz.

  • panulli

    Wow! It looks modern and not cheesy at the same time. Pity, this doesn't occur as often as you would wish.

  • Karl Metz

    This is quite the Deleuzian space for a nomadic culture. meta.

  • superdeluxe

    Looks very much like BIG's Astana library.

    • no, it doesnt. please learn how to see..

  • It looks stunning & otherworldly. First thought was "Muad'Dib's palace in Arrakeen" –yeah, geek & proud of it!

    PS: I don't see the place where you can tie in your horse while you look at the exhibit ;)

  • Pierre Sinsua

    looks like a designer human waste from afar

  • clade

    oh man. what goes on inside that thing?? it sure is beautiful .

  • Charles Chan

    Right….. u know, none of these curvy wall museum works because YOU CANT HANG PICTURES.

    It's a Museum, not a architectural sculpture that goes in a museum.

    Jees, somebody make a museum for giants to stuff these sculpture-architecture in.

    • It is possible to create the walls a bit far from the original outline that will serve as a passage winding for visitors.

    • amsam

      Right….. u know, a little structure called the GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM has curved walls, and it's been working out pretty well.

    • james

      Why such a strong advocate of conventional architecture? Exactly what amsam mentioned about the Guggenheim, why not create a new experience of looking at art? It might be through different qualities of light, unfamiliar settings, or walls at unorthodox angles. Who said there's only one and one correct way of experiencing art? MAD, good stuff.

  • win

    whatever what collection does the city of ordos have anyway? it's definitely not about hanging pictures, which has become secondary to the architecture. the building is intriguing regardless.

  • nik

    curved walls…who cares?
    its a ghost museum in a ghost city!

  • vasi

    besides its intriguing form, this building's design succeeds to express a very mystical, transcendental feeling. There are very few examples of contemporary design, that the physical (form, geometry, etc) goes hand in hand with the metaphysical. Excellent work MAD !

  • pim

    this city is built by the government to increase their gdp, but is currently completely empty!

  • Haza

    the insides look so lovely with all that wooden panelling, nice effect

  • kwest design


    the meteor has landed. sad that we put our esteemed art objects in what looks like space debris.

  • Adam

    Geez this project could have used a landscape architect….beautiful building though.

  • deram

    Detail really sucks.

  • guest

    Piece of sh*t (almost literally).