An Idea Of Zen: The Pingtan Art Museum, Pingtan Island, China

1 Posted by - September 15, 2014 - Architecture, Asia, Design
Pingtan Art Museum

The Pingtan Art Museum is designed as an island, connected to a larger island.

What is this?  To the lead architect, a famous, multiply awarded gentleman named Ma Yansong, it looks like a sea creature. To others that sea creature looks more like a Manta or a Sting Ray. The last thing one would imagine it to be is what it is: an art museum, and a major one at that. It will soon be the largest private museum in Asia, home to over 1000 Chinese works of art.

Designed as an artificial landmass in water but attached to the greater island of Pingtan, the construction area of the site has now begun, and when finished, will be over 40,000 square meters, or 430,556 square feet.

The Pingtan Art Museum is designed as an island, connected to a larger island, Pingtan in China. Pingtan is the closest island to Taiwan, and  plans to become the primary location for trade and cultural communication between Taiwan and Mainland China in near future.

This is the third museum design by the Chinese firm, MAD Architects, but their first island. The unusual design is not a new thing for MAD Architects, creatives who have designed and built the Absolute Towers, looking like twisting skyscrapers, the Ordos Museum in the Gobi Desert, looking like a dark, organic metal-tiled bubble emerging from the ground, the Vertu Pavilion, looking like huge shards of broken glass – to name just a few.  But because the Pingtan Art Museum is their first island, their mission/vision and focus was different: less urban, less fierce.

This museum, according to Ma Yansong, Acts as a smaller scale island off the Pingtan Island, connected to land only by a slightly undulating pier, which, in turn, bridges artificial and natural, city and culture, as well as history and future. It wishes to communicate a sense of purity and an idea of Zen.”

The idea of Zen and Zen-like peace is well portrayed in this uniquely shaped, multi-domed structure, with “hills” made of concrete blended with local sand and seashells. The building’s slanted lines and curvilinear walls create a cave-like interior that will house exhibit halls and public areas. As the visitor gets closer, it looks less like a sea creature and more like a Zen sanctuary.

Pingtan Art Museum interior inside looking out

The Pingtan Art Museum’s design is one of synthesis and disruption.

Ma Yansong is a trailblazing figure for Chinese architecture, having a reputation as a global business leader and innovative architect. Recently named  2014’s Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, and one of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People In Business. Yansong founded MAD Architecture ten years ago in Beijing, and has been responsible for many of its most memorable architectural projects seen within the past decade.

“The concept of this Pingtan Art Museum project is a naturally floating island in the sea.” said Mr. Yansong in a recent interview. “ And it also represents a long-lasting earthscape in water and is a symbol of the island in ancient times, with each island containing a mountain beneath it.”

The design involves a narrow, undulating pier that visitors must cross to get from Pingtan to the Museum’s island. After entering, the visitors enter the three exhibition spaces of the museum. When seen from the outside these cave like spaces look like three white hills, or dunes from the sea. The curved tops will serve as public green spaces, where visitors can enjoy the peace.

Like many of Mr.Yansong’s works, The Pingtan Art Museum’s design is one of synthesis and disruption.  It is a private museum within a public space, a museum that houses ancient and traditional art within a futuristic space, an island of artifice, yet with a subsuming eco-sensitivity. As Mr. Yansong said recently, “The relationship between architecture and nature is a wholeness you can’t separate. And architecturally, we should discover news ways to make humans and nature closer, and not be purely dependent on technology.”

Pingtan, the closest island to Taiwan, is expected to become the nexus of commercial and cultural trade between Taiwan and the mainland in coming years. At the heart of all this change, the Pingtan Art Museum will form the center of this new city.

The museum is an integral part of a plan to transform Pingtan Island into a new commercial area. This island is the largest of the Fujian province islands and is of strategic importance as it is the nearest Chinese island to Taiwan. Currently, Pingtan Island is home to a fisheries industry and a military base, but breaking ground for this new Museum heralds a change in attitude, perspective and hope – all for more a more collaborative commercial eco-system between Taiwan and China in the near future. The Pingtan Art Museum is slated for completion in late 2016.

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