Nanjing Sifang Art Museum / Steven Holl Architects

© Shu He

The new museum is sited at the gateway to the Contemporary International Practical Exhibition of Architecture in the lush green landscape of the Pearl Spring near Nanjing, . It explores the shifting viewpoints, layers of space, and expanses of mist and water, which characterize the deep alternating spatial mysteries of early Chinese painting. This coming fall the Nanjing Sifang Art Museum will open to the public.

Drawings, photographs, and sketches following the break.

Architects: Steven Holl Architects
Design Architect: Steven Holl, Li Hu
Location: Nanjing, China
Associate-in-Charge: Hideki Hirahara
Project Architect: Clark Manning, Daijiro Nakayama
Project Team: Joseph Kan, JongSeo Lee, Pei Shyun Lee, Tz-Li Lin, Richard Liu, Sarah Nichol
Associate Architects: Architectural Design Institute, Nanjing University
Structural Consultant: Guy Nordenson and Associates
Lighting Design: L’Observatoire International
Client: Nanjing Foshou Lake Architecture and Art Developments Ltd
Project Area: 20,000 sqf
Project Year: 2011
Photographs: Li Hu, Shu He,


Perspective is the fundamental historic difference between Western and Chinese painting. After the 13th Century, Western painting developed vanishing points in fixed perspective. Chinese painters, although aware of perspective, rejected the single-vanishing point method, instead producing landscapes with “parallel perspectives” in which the viewer travels within the painting.

© Steven Holl Architects

The museum is formed by a “field” of parallel perspective spaces and garden walls in black bamboo-formed concrete over which a light “figure” hovers. The straight passages on the ground level gradually turn into the winding passage of the figure above. The upper gallery, suspended high in the air, unwraps in a clockwise turning sequence and culminates at “in-position” viewing of the city of Nanjing in the distance. The meaning of this rural site becomes urban through this visual axis to the great Ming Dynasty capital city, Nanjing.


The courtyard is paved in recycled Old Hutong bricks from the destroyed courtyards in the center of Nanjing. Limiting the colors of the museum to black and white connects it to the ancient paintings, but also gives a background to feature the colors and textures of the artwork and architecture to be exhibited within. Bamboo, previously growing on the site, has been used in bamboo- formed concrete, with a black penetrating stain. The Museum has geothermal cooling and heating, and recycled storm water.

© Steven Holl Architects

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* Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address.
Cite: "Nanjing Sifang Art Museum / Steven Holl Architects" 20 May 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 20 Sep 2014. <>


  1. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    in the view of the previous proyects of mr Holl, he have license to do these extravaganzas…

  2. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Steven Holl, the master manipulator of light and space, has managed to create a structure which engulfs its occupant into a series of interior situations which are yielding and permeable to illumination. Transparent walls of glass allow stunning panoramas of the exterior landscape and create extensive vistas throughout the building. The exterior, however, is lacking in its connectivity to the existing site. It appears to be completely removed from its context and too assertive in its form and obtrusive to its surroundings.

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    I want to know from where steven holl has chosen this form for his museum, can anybody help?

  4. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    The light and shadow in the upper gallery and elevator case are quite gentle and comfortable. Nice experience to feel it in person.

  5. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    What Type of Material Did He Use in The Upper Gallery ? the Translucent Metallic Texture is Quite Nice !

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