National Museum of China Competition Entry / MAD Architects

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Designed by MAD Architects for the 2011 international competition for a new national museum in Beijing, their proposal aims at being a city-sized museum where the public space is the greatest good. Situated on the central axis of the 2008 Olympic site, and part of a six mega volume masterplan, the main question became how to design something iconic on an unrealistic and inhuman city scale. Their response became a hybrid between an elevated public square and a floating mega building above. More images and architects’ description after the break.

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Since began opening up to the world in the late 1970’s, ’s contemporary creative scene has been expanding to the stage of global confidence with added investment in its artists. Built in 1962, the National Art Museum of , already having one of the largest collections in the country, has been the backdrop to some of the most influential exhibitions in contemporary Chinese history. With the planned move into a new building, the organizing committee followed a global trend: bigger, located in a designated ‘art district’ and more iconic.

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Organized as an open city in three layers, the result is a sequence of outdoor and indoor spaces. In these spaces, nature and function are not separated but intertwined. This creates an architecture that achieves an understanding about one’s bodily presence among the objects that surround him, instead to a functional agglomeration of pre-defined uses.

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The one-story ground floor holds all ancillary functions that have the ability to operate independently from the opening hours of the museum. Atop this is a 20,000 square meter urban plaza that houses a permanent art collection on show. This space is connected to the Olympic park by a bridge, extending an otherwise ignored side of the urban plan. The organization of the exhibition space allows visitors to choose their own way around the collection, all the while, being surrounded with an open view towards the city. As a finale, a domed exhibition hall at the top integrates nature with human and art space. Defined as indefinite, it gives space to the largest works of our time. This ‘floating’ art city hovers over visitors like a cloud of possibilities.

Courtesy of MAD Architects

MAD architects’ proposal shows how a building can bring the city and art together, creating a urban public space where people can consider their relationship between time, point of view and each other.

Architects: MAD Architects
Location: Beijing, China
Director in Charge: Ma Yansong, Qun Dang
Design Team: Zhao Wei, Sohith Perera, Yu Kui, Jei Kim, Geraldine Lo, Mao Beihong
Associate Engineer: ARUP Group Ltd
Type: Museum
Site Area: 30,000 sqm
Building Area: 152,200 sqm
Height: 58 m
Year: 2011

Cite: Furuto, Alison. "National Museum of China Competition Entry / MAD Architects" 04 Oct 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 22 May 2015. <>
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  • Nouf .A

    I’m wondering about the function and structure in the curved area at the bottom which carry the shell, how they solve it? its fluid design and spaces resumble acave which creats wast spaces,,

    also, i think it is costy because the concrete shell in such designs preferable to be one piece ,, its costy with lots of wast space,,

  • Eman

    isn’t it too big building ?
    I am wondering about the effect of windows and openings ( specially the top one) in real life not in a render
    nevertheless, i like how the designer combined the organic form and the rectangular plan in one building

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