Steven Holl to design four museums
for new complex in China


News: New York architect Steven Holl has won a competition to design four museums in Qingdao, China, with a concept for a series of "art islands" linked by a looping route of galleries and pathways (+ movie).

Culture and Art Centre of Qingdao City by Steven Holl

The Culture and Art Centre of Qingdao will occupy an 18-hectare site to the north of Jiaozhou Bay, creating a complex of museums dedicated to classic art, modern art, public art and performing arts.

Culture and Art Centre of Qingdao City by Steven Holl

Steven Holl's plan features a snaking tunnel structure designed to reference the form of the nearby Jiaozhou Bay Bridge - the world's longest bridge over water. This "light loop" will connect the four museums, accommodating a trail of galleries inside.

Culture and Art Centre of Qingdao City by Steven Holl

"The project starts with a very unique connection to Qingdao and the idea of actually connecting to the morphology of the Jiaozhou Bay Bridge," says Holl in a movie accompanying the competition entry. "It inspires the possibility of this whole project to become related to that linear idea."

Culture and Art Centre of Qingdao City by Steven Holl

Three of the museums will comprise cube-shaped structures positioned at intervals along the route, while the fourth will be positioned around a public square at the centre of the complex.

Culture and Art Centre of Qingdao City by Steven Holl

The surrounding spaces will be filled with gardens, pools of water and an outdoor sculpture park.

Culture and Art Centre of Qingdao City by Steven Holl

"There's a great porosity and a great fusion between the movement across the site and the movement in the gallery system above," says the architect. "It will have breezes coming in from the ocean that cool the entire landscape."

Culture and Art Centre of Qingdao City by Steven Holl

A mixture of sanded aluminium and stained concrete will be used to construct the new buildings.

Culture and Art Centre of Qingdao City by Steven Holl

Here are some extra details from Steven Holl Architects:

Steven Holl Architects Wins Invited Competition for the Culture and Art Centre of Qingdao City

Steven Holl Architects has been selected by near unanimous jury decision as the winner of the new Culture and Art Centre of Qingdao City competition, besting OMA and Zaha Hadid Architects. The 2 million sq ft project for four museums is the heart of the new extension of Qingdao, China, planned for a population of 700,000.

The winning design for the new Culture and Art Centre begins with a connection to Qingdao. The linear form of the Jiaozhou Bay Bridge - the world's longest bridge over water - is carried into the large site, in the form of a Light Loop, which contains gallery spaces and connects all aspects of the landscape and public spaces. The raised Light Loop allows maximum porosity and movement across the site, and permits natural sound bound breezes that blow in off the ocean to flow across the site.

Culture and Art Centre of Qingdao City by Steven Holl
Bridge link concept

Set within the master plan are Art Islands, or Yishudao, which take the form of three sculpted cubes, and four small landscape art islands that form outdoor sculpture gardens. Five terraced reflecting pools animate the landscape and bring light to levels below via skylights.

The Light Loop and Yishudao concepts facilitate the shaping of public space. A great central square for large gatherings is at the centre of the site overlooking a large water garden. The Modern Art Museum shapes the central square. The Public Arts Museum forms the main experience of entry from the south. The North Yishudao contains the Classic Art Museum, with a hotel at its top levels, and the South Yishudao, which floats over the large south reflecting pool, holds the Performing Arts Program.

In the Light Loop, all horizontal galleries receive natural light from the roof that can be controlled with 20% screens as well as blackout options. The 20 metre wide section of the Light Loop allows side lighting to the lower level galleries, and provides space for two galleries side by side, avoiding dead-end circulation.

Culture and Art Centre of Qingdao City by Steven Holl
Site layout diagram

The basic architecture is in simple monochrome of sanded marine aluminium and stained concrete, with the undersides of the Light Loops in rich polychrome colours of ancient Chinese architecture. These soffits are washed with light at night to become landscape lighting in shimmering reflected colours.

The entire project uses the most sustainable green technologies. Placed between the skylights on the Light Loop, photovoltaic cells will provide 80% of the museum’s electrical needs. The reflecting ponds with recycle water, while 480 geothermal wells provide heating and cooling.

  • Jacobus

    Looks just like Happy Street to me. (Expo 2010, Dutch pavilion, John Körmeling).

  • Jesse Lockhart Krause

    The contextual ideas of landscape and heritage seem positive. The scale of the project however worries me. I wonder if it will be comfortable and intimate, or uncomfortable and superficial?

  • hgf

    Does referencing the form of a nearby bridge make it a good form for a museum? or a tenuous reference to Chinese painting? The movie makes it seem like it will be more like an airport than a museum, but I suppose I’ve always wanted to cruise around on a golf cart taking blurry iPhone photos of the great masterworks.

    I really dislike how successful this “concept model” has been for Steven Holl in China, to the point that many architects are imitating it in their own work. Just because an idea is ‘simple’ and ‘powerful’ doesn’t mean it is good.

  • Munchman

    The teenager in me is only seeing a Tony Hawk’s pro skater level.

  • happycamper

    It’s amusing to hear that the “stories in an exhibition could unfold in a linear way” – in fact this scheme leaves little choice but linear narratives. This scheme could potentially kill the kind of chance encounters or juxtapositions that can arise when a visitor wanders from one gallery to another or from level to level.

    Architectural merits of the building aside, what this scheme will leave the curators is really restrictive and ill-thought through. I also feel for the visitors, being forced to trek along the such a long and prescribed route – what if they specifically want to see one work? Or lose interest half way through?

  • David

    An excellent example of a clear concept thoroughly examined to produce a convincing and rigorous scheme. I am no Steven Holl fan boy, but I think this is one of the best proposals for a large scale cultural project there has been for a while.

  • rui pedro

    Totally agree!

  • Borg

    I do like Steven Holl – but recently he seems to have lost the run of himself

  • JuanGalicia

    Well I suppose nobody can be at the top of their game all of the time.

  • Allan

    It’s something new for me. It also looks like Guggenheim museum unfolded and spread out.

  • x
  • dave

    Funny idea about the “tramline”. My experiences of art galleries are either tranquil, thought-provoking moments, or crowds to instigate meaningful conversations.

    I’ve never been in one and thought, hmmmm, we need traffic noises and cars in here!

    Again the water gardens of Suzhou are beautiful because of their delicacy and intimacy of miniature landscapes, Steven Holl here is literally erecting mountain ranges and artificial lakes, and what speaks more of natural beauty than concrete blocks and giant swimming pools?