Kengo Kuma creates sprawling "village" of folk-art galleries for China Academy of Arts


Thousands of curved tiles cover the gabled rooftops of the new folk-art galleries at the China Academy of Arts, designed by Japanese firm Kengo Kuma & Associates to look like a small village (+ slideshow).

China Academy Arts by Kengo Kuma and photographed by Eiichi Kano

The Folk Art Museum stands in a former tea plantation on the China Academy of Arts campus in Hangzhou, a city on China's eastern coast.

To help embed the 5,000-square-metre building in the sloping terrain, Kengo Kuma's studio fragmented the museum into separate units that gradually step up towards the forested summit of the hill.

China Academy Arts by Kengo Kuma and photographed by Eiichi Kano

Each section of the building is designed to look like a small house with its own pitched roof. These are all covered in rows of grey tiles, giving the museum a zigzagging roofline.

This form, along with the use of tiling discarded from local housing, helps the gallery fit into both its rural and urban setting.

China Academy Arts by Kengo Kuma and photographed by Eiichi Kano

"Planning is based on the geometric division of the units of a parallelogram, to deal with the intricate topography," explained the firm."Each unit has a small individual roof, so the outlook became like a village that evokes a view of extending tiled roofs."

China Academy Arts by Kengo Kuma and photographed by Eiichi Kano

Stainless steel wire is strung across the glazed facades of the museum, resembling a fishnet.

Extra roof tiles wedged in the diamond-shaped gaps in the mesh cast shadow patterns across the interior of the building. A similar technique was used by the firm in its design of the Xinjin Zhi Museum, which has a facade veiled in rows of floating tiles.

China Academy Arts by Kengo Kuma and photographed by Eiichi Kano

"Old tiles for both the screen and the roof came from local houses," explained the studio. "Their sizes are all different, and that helps the architecture merge into the ground naturally."

China Academy Arts by Kengo Kuma and photographed by Eiichi Kano

"The outer wall is covered with a screen of tiles hung up by stainless wires, and it controls the volume of sunlight coming into the rooms inside," they added.

China Academy Arts by Kengo Kuma and photographed by Eiichi Kano

The building's stepped form results in a series of split-level galleries, which are connected by timber- and stone-lined ramps with mesh balustrades.

"Our point was to design a museum from which the ground below can be felt, by continuing the building's floors that follow the ups and downs of the slope," added the firm.

China Academy Arts by Kengo Kuma and photographed by Eiichi Kano

Kuma previously used ramps to create a miniature hilly terrain within a nursery in Towada, Japan. The firm is also currently working on the design of a new Paris metro station and a tower with twisted floor plates for Rolex in Dallas.

Photography is by Eiichi Kano.

Project credits:

Design: Kengo Kuma & Associates
Structural design: Konishi Structural Engineers
Facility design: PT Morimura & Associates

  • sav

    The resultant interior spaces leave a lot to be desired.

    • JEng

      Yeah he’s got no moves there. And I may not be autistic but I’m reluctant to touch anything that looks uncomfortable and that wire fencing with the roof tiles resting between the spaces look hard to clean and rough to the touch.

  • Mr_Marsden

    This is stunning. Plans would be great.

  • fergusnaughton

    I disagree. I think the diffused dappled light from the tile-and-tension-wire-shading device look amazing. I wonder if it remains static or if it slightly moves in the wind so that the shadows dance on the floor?

    The roof looks amazing but there does appear to be a considerable amount of ramped floor area. Some drawings would be nice.

    • Meme

      You forgot the possible sound of the shifting tiles, which would give another dimension to it. But even without it I love it.

    • JEng

      How do the tiles move? What happens when the kids toilet paper your fencing for Halloween? You’ll be cleaning out those bits for years.

      That’s why cheap houses have those strips of aluminium-in-wire fencing – not only for privacy but to prevent detritus from becoming lodged in the fence.

      He sounds autistic, like’s fascinated and overly impressed by roof tiles – ooh.

  • The light and shadows! Amazing work.

  • spadestick

    Master of material, and such willing clients to allow full-fledged creativity.

  • Reekke

    Now that is some seriously minimal fixing on those tiles. Nice Kengo, nice.

    • JEng

      I think there should be more respect for the origin of the material and intended usage at the time of its creation. I mind very much that the Japanese have taken so many Chinese designs and misused them in Japan – a particular gripe I have is that they used shattered-ice lattice design for windows on the cement sidewalk in some shopping area.

      Not only is that our design, of course uncredited, but shattered ice on the ground when it was a cultural attachment to Chinese winters.

      It’s up to them if they want to depict themselves on cracked (thin) ice. Whatever, but that’s OUR design so stop stealing our stuff.

  • Chrisz

    Kuma is a genius.

    • JEng

      I have to disagree. Those tiles look no better at his Xinzhen museum where they are arranged like something on the wall of an Asian fusion restaurant.

  • Akeel Rafiq

    Got to love this guy.

  • papou