National Art Museum of China competition entry / OMA

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OMA has shared with us their proposal for the new National Art Museum of (NAMOC) in Beijing. The Rotterdam-based practice is one of the all-star contenders competing to design the 1.3 million square feet NAMOC that will be built next to the Herzog & de Meuron-designed Bird’s Nest. Even though rumors are flying about a potential winner, the jury won’t announce the final results of the competition until November.

Given the epic proportions of the NAMOC, OMA has chosen to treat the massive structure as a small city by integrating a variety of city-like districts throughout. The proposal includes a range of experiences in both “classical, orthogonal” museum spaces as well as contemporary, open-plan areas. Continue after the break to learn more.

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The composition includes a mix of sectors – both “official and grassroots” – such as a city center and a periphery, a Chinese and an international district, modern and historical areas, commercial and “government” neighborhoods. Like a city, each individual section has the flexibility to accommodate the changing needs of the NAMOC; areas can be redefined, renovated, or even replaced, without compromising the whole.

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Plan © OMA

Although the plan treats the NAMOC city, this does not mean the museum loses the potential to remain intimate. Similar to all cities, individual sectors can remain small and humane, while other parts offer public and commercial areas. This allows for a unique mix of potential experiences for the museum.

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The architecture of the main plinth offers a range of classical and orthogonal museum spaces, in contrast to a more contemporary, open plan. Like any city, larger groups can use more efficient and direct circulation, while the individual has the opportunity to meander; both allowing the discovery of Chinese art.

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The main circulation of the city is based on a five-pointed star that leads from the multiple entry points on the periphery to the center. Here, the star connects to the “lantern” – a multistory stack of platforms wrapped in a red skin – where temporary exhibitions and events are arranged and provide with the “smooth efficiency” of a convention center. Although its internal organization is rational, the elastic skin stretched around the metallic frame makes this “lantern” appear as a mystery.

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The lantern is the three-dimensional emblem of NAMOC. A single tangential axis allows it to share a relation with it’s neighbor, the Bird’s Nest. In contrast to the intricacy of the city-like plinth below, the six main floors of the lantern offer wide open spaces, to prevent the architecture from interfering with different exhibitions or events.

Conceptually, the two halves of NAMOC – the “City” and “Lantern” – are complementary. “Like the city today, they offer radically different experiences: the small scale, intricate condition of the traditional urban fabric of China and the contemporary era of radical modernization…”

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Architect: OMA
Status: Competition first phase: 2010/11

Client: National Art Museum of China
Location: New cultural district in Olympic Green, Beijing
Site: 30,000m2
Program: 128,000m2 for permanent collection and temporary exhibition spaces

Partners in charge: Rem Koolhaas, Shohei Shigematsu, David Gianotten
Project Architect: Alessandro De Santis
Team: Jing Chen, Midori Hasuike, Martin Hejl, Jinman Jo, Anu Leinonen, Adrienne Lau, Kostya Miroshnychenko, Pietro Pagliaro, Ippolito Pestellini, Jue Qiu, Yanfei Shui, Espen Vatn, Yu Wang, James Westcott, Junjie Yan, Nurdan Yakup, Dongmei Yao, Haohao Zhu Animation art direction: Martin Hejl

Engineering: Arup
Animation: Embryo
Imagery: Robota
Model: RJ Models

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Cite: Rosenfield, Karissa. "National Art Museum of China competition entry / OMA" 10 Oct 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 22 May 2015. <>
  • Ard Buijsen

    interesting tweet just came by about this design:
    from @ollywainwright

    oh, a proposal i worked on at OMA for a museum in Saudi Arabia has now turned up in China – with a pagoda on top

  • Pushkin

    Ha, ha.. what a shame, but maybe this is what new architecture (art, music, you name it) is about – reuse and recycle old ideas.

  • Maitha AlM


  • Maitha AlM

    The approach of designing this museums is quite extraordinary, by looking to the structure, it seems like the architects treated it as a closed city by integrating the sectors or districts-alike shapes throughout beside reflecting the symbol of china’s flag “five-pointed star”, which is obviously sensed and reflected through the plan, such integration allows a unique and interesting experiences and circulation throughout the museum. The exterior was treated beautifully in a unique metallic frame structure that is covered by an elastic skin giving the sense of a lantern.

  • Nas

    at least use new graphic and new collages in the renders.