Tianjin Ecocity Ecology and Planning
Museums by Steven Holl Architects

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Tianjin Ecocity Ecology and Planning Museums by Steven Holl Architects

One building is the inverse of another at this pair of museums that architect Steven Holl has designed for a new city quarter of Tianjin, China.

Tianjin Ecocity Ecology and Planning Museums by Steven Holl Architects

The Ecology and Planning Museums will be located within Tianjin Eco-City, a new city quarter under construction on China's east coast that is set to accommodate at least 350,000 inhabitants.

Tianjin Ecocity Ecology and Planning Museums by Steven Holl Architects

Steven Holl Architects conceived the Planning Museum as a large cuboidal building with a series of blob-shaped voids piercing its volume, while the neighbouring Ecology Museum will have a non-linear form that copies the shape of these openings.

Tianjin Ecocity Ecology and Planning Museums by Steven Holl Architects

The architects compare the buildings to the Chinese concept of yin and yang, which symbolises the natural balance of the universe. "The Planning Museum is a 'subtractive' space, while the Ecology Museum is an 'additive' complement," they explain.

Tianjin Ecocity Ecology and Planning Museums by Steven Holl Architects

Visitors to the Ecology Museum will spiral through floors of exhibitions dedicated to the evolution of the galaxy, the biology of the earth and the development of the human race. These will include a large balcony of living exhibits that can be rotated with the changing seasons.

Tianjin Ecocity Ecology and Planning Museums by Steven Holl Architects

The Planning Museum next door will contain exhibitions related to technology and development, from transport and infrastructure to architecture and industry.

Tianjin Ecocity Ecology and Planning Museums by Steven Holl Architects

A public plaza will be positioned between the two museums and a high-speed tram will connect the site with the Eco-City's main business district.

Tianjin Ecocity Ecology and Planning Museums by Steven Holl Architects

New York-based Steven Holl Architects recently completed the Sliced Porosity Block office complex in Beijing. Other projects in China by the firm include the Linked Hybrid complex of eight connected towers in Beijing and a "horizontal skyscraper" in Shenzhen.

Tianjin Ecocity Ecology and Planning Museums by Steven Holl Architects

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Tianjin Ecocity Ecology and Planning Museums by Steven Holl Architects

Here's some more information from the architects:


Tianjin Ecocity Ecology and Planning Museums Tianjin, China

On reclaimed salt pan and polluted tide flats at Bohai Bay, China (just over a two hour drive from Beijing), a new city for 350,000 inhabitants is being built from scratch. Founded as a collaboration of the governments of Singapore and China, this new Eco-City aims to demonstrate state of the art sustainable aspects. One third of the city is already constructed, and substantial completion is projected for 2020.

Tianjin Ecocity Ecology and Planning Museums by Steven Holl Architects

The Ecology and Planning Museums are the first two buildings of the cultural district of Eco-City Tianjin. The Planning Museum is a "subtractive" space, while the Ecology Museum is an "additive" complement, a reversal of the space carved out from the Planning Museum. Like the Chinese "Bau Gua" or "Yin Yang," these forms are in reverse relations.

Tianjin Ecocity Ecology and Planning Museums by Steven Holl Architects

Both museums will be 20,000 m2 with a service zone connecting them below grade, bringing the total construction to 60,000 m2. A high speed tram running between these two museums connects to the central business district of Eco-City.

Tianjin Ecocity Ecology and Planning Museums by Steven Holl Architects

The Ecology Museum experience begins with an orientation projection space next to a restaurant and retail opening to the ground level. From there, visitors take the elevator to the highest exhibition floor. Visitors proceed through the three ecologies in a descending procession of ramps: Earth to Cosmos, Earth to Man, Earth to Earth.

Tianjin Ecocity Ecology and Planning Museums by Steven Holl Architects

Above: site section - click above for larger image

Exhibits for Earth to Cosmos speak to the vast complexities of intergalactic ecology, from the beginnings of the universe and its governing forces, to the formation of planet Earth and its place in the galaxy. Visitors learn that ecology is a subject much larger and deeply rooted than is currently inscribed in the modern discourse.

Tianjin Ecocity Ecology and Planning Museums by Steven Holl Architects

Above: Ecology Museum front elevation

Descending to lower levels in the museum, the visitors arrive at Earth to Human. Exhibits take a turn to explore ancient and current schools of thoughts regarding Spirit and Matter, while revisiting Earth's creation myths from various cultures. Exhibits also narrate Man's origins and imprint on earth over the ages, concluding with the "Manmade Ecology" exhibit where current schools of ecology are shown.

Tianjin Ecocity Ecology and Planning Museums by Steven Holl Architects

Above: Ecology Museum side elevation

At the last section of the 3-Ecologies exhibits, the Earth to Earth section covers the extensive history of planet Earth from its formation in the Hedean Eon through Pangea, formation of the continents and the Ice Ages. The understanding of the origins of our eco systems provides a background to learn about our modern times and the ecological challenges we face as changes in earth atmosphere, global warming, melting of the polar cap and sea level raising.

Tianjin Ecocity Ecology and Planning Museums by Steven Holl Architects

Above: Ecology Museum rear elevation

At the ground floor, the Earth to Earth Exhibition turns clockwise, moving down towards the Ocean Ecology Exhibition located under the reflecting pond of the plaza. Exhibits on the ocean's various eco systems are naturally lit with shimmering light from the skylights at the bottom of the pond.

Tianjin Ecocity Ecology and Planning Museums by Steven Holl Architects

Above: Ecology Museum side elevation

Four outdoor green roof terraces open out from Level 2 (Earth to Earth) with living exhibits changing with the seasons.

Tianjin Ecocity Ecology and Planning Museums by Steven Holl Architects

Above: Planning Museum front elevation

The Planning Museum, entered directly from the shared public plaza defined by the two buildings, opens to an introduction area and a temporary exhibition area. A large Urban Model Exhibition (all of the Eco-City) is followed by a theory and practice zone. Digital projections will facilitate the potential to update and increase information. Transportation and industry exhibits follow on Level 2 with escalators loading to an interactive section and 3D Cinema on Level 3. On Level 3, there is a restaurant with views out to the sea. Escalators lead to Level 5 with Green Architecture, landscape and water resources exhibitions. This skylit large open top level has access to the green roofscape.

Tianjin Ecocity Ecology and Planning Museums by Steven Holl Architects

Above: Planning Museum side elevation

The nearby Bohai Sea site has an ancient history as part of the Great Ridges of Chenier, which developed over thousands of years. The huge mounds of shells, a magnificent testimony to the power of nature, inspire the sliced edges of the mounds defining the public space around the new Ecology and Planning Museums.

Tianjin Ecocity Ecology and Planning Museums by Steven Holl Architects

Above: Planning Museum rear elevation

A slice through the mounds, like a slice through time, exposes these shell specimens embedded in concrete. People can also walk to the tops of the mounds for great views of the cultural buildings with the Eco-Forum and government center across the river in the distant view.

Tianjin Ecocity Ecology and Planning Museums by Steven Holl Architects

Above: Planning Museum side elevation

  • Colonel Pancake

    I spent considerable amount of time looking at this project last week on Holl’s website and the only conclusion I could come to is that I’ve never seen a more ambitious formal concept.

    There are so many structural limitations involved that the degree of skill required to extract two volumes from a single rectangle (even if it’s slightly modified) is something that makes me wonder whether it was worth trying to figure out. I can’t imagine the amount of time that was spent trying to find a suitable arrangement of space that isn’t a strained commitment to the ying-yang.

    If it ends up working well, it could be spectacular. If the concept turns out to be too contrived and sacrifices functionality in the sake of conceptual idealism, it could be quite disastrous and certainly a waste of money.

    But I’ll give Holl credit for shooting at the moon on this occasion.

    • Medusa

      Although Holl’s spatial talent is undeniable and shines through here in some of the internal spaces, it is almost shocking to read the arbitrariness and simplicity of the ‘concept’. Subtractive space and additive compliment all relative to the Ying Yang. Why and how is this relevant and appropriate not only for any building, but for those particular uses in that specific site? In which way (besides your own particular spatial exercises) having two buildings coming from the same theoretical volume makes them better architecture?

      Maybe China, that new frontier for the anything goes, has unleashed the limits of what the discipline (that old fashioned word) used to be… and things like type, character, context and things like that seems somehow irrelevant today.

      For one, I miss the Holl from some years (or decades) ago, when his spatial talent was still ‘constrained’ by the discipline… and the results were this side of the arbitrary.
      PS Isn’t it kind of ironic the amount of steel they will need to keep these lovely shapes in mid-air for an Ecology Museum?

  • Chris

    Top marks for being ambitious, but personally I find the overall effect to be less than compelling. Too bad; I like many of Holl’s projects and (typically) respect his design theory. But this just screams arbitrary to me, like a figure-ground 3D study from school being given an unlimited budget. Bizarre.

  • http://tecnne.com Marcelo Gardinetti

    With this work, Holl starts tread a path close to the fireworks of Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid: an empty formalism, irrelevant and unnecessary.

  • Noah

    Yeah. I’m not buying this one. There is no subtlety here.

  • Stephany

    What’s wrong about being formalist? Is architecture doomed to be just one formula, the one of the self-righteous haters?

  • Peanut

    Holl, you just lost the Pritzker with this yingyang crap.

  • Breadcrumbtrail

    Holl is a master but it’s a crying shame that a museum based on “ecology” ends up as a mere display of formalism.

  • http://twitter.com/StunSound @StunSound

    And another one jumps the shark. Disappointingly trite and simplistic “concept”, resulting in a shockingly self-absorbed and irresponsible design. And I used to really like your work, Mr. Holl.

  • Hayden

    China’s just a big stress ball for architecture’s elder statesmen.

  • http://twitter.com/gabswolf @gabswolf

    These shapes were created with a foam cutter! It is a shame that Holl's ability with materials is so absent here. The watercolor sketches are just plain sad.

  • Sultony

    I have to agree with most comments that condemn the artificial sensationalism and unreasoned architecture. The challenge of architecture is to achieve great forms that express a function, make sense and lift the soul. To abandon reason of form that connects with people (like Gehry, and maybe this demonstrates American excess) is to dive back into the playpen of childhood and fantasy. We are slowly entering a world whereby a book is made of cheese and a bicycle is made of spaghetti – madness; which surprisingly, some people think is worth paying for.

  • alex

    I don’t really think that a return to a child’s game could be an explanation for this project. A game, and a child’s game even more so, would be defined by many and sometimes very complicated rules (either born from the fantasy and appearing to be random or imitating the adult world). Above all, for a child a game is not merely a game, it is something to be taken seriously. If Mr. Holl’s architecture were to be a child’s game then the rules applied to it would either be perfectly reasonable or perfectly unreasonable to an adult’s eye. This project is no child’s game. There is no real rule to it. It could much rather be said to be the game of a bored adult, doodling something on a notepad during a meeting and then trying to find a reasonable explanation for it.

  • http://www.4site-architecture.com peter

    We are definitely subconsciously shifting into a new way of engaging with the world around us and like history tells us, this will take some time for many to understand or be able to engage with meaningfully, Holl, like many others exploring ideas and thinking based on lucid or obvious concepts, is part of this evolving process within the built environment and all of their work, however different formal or functional or even irrational, should be assessed from many different positions/perspectives global, local cultural etc. Personally, the potential spatial experiences alone makes this building more than desirable and therefore it needs to be built!

  • nozaha

    This looks like a very strange huge piece of cheese… oh, Chinese!

  • nico

    Steven Holl was able to complete in China several wonderfull projects in Beijing, Chengdu and Shenzhen.

    A few images of this project can’t give us an insight into the built thing, but based on the ones already completed I’m pretty confident.