In Progress: Nanjing Museum of Art & Architecture / Steven Holl

Flickr © vbratone

Special thanks to our reader, Vivian Bratone, for sharing some insight to Steven Holl’s newest museum project with us.  Situated in Pearl Spring near , China, the museum is only a part of the Chinese International Practical Exhibition of Architecture (CIPEA) complex.  The CIPEA project is a complete collaboration of architects from across the world, from Italy to Japan, and Mexico to Croatia.  Upon completion, the complex will include more than a dozen buildings that will house exhibits for arts and culture.

More about Holl’s project, including a set of Bratone’s images, after the break.

Flickr © vbratone

In addition to Holl’s museum, the plan includes a landscape Circle of Interaction by SANAA, the Pond Lilly by Chilean architect Mathias Klotz, a Glass Box by Heng Liu of Hong Kong, and plenty more projects that all differ stylistically, yet are united in their shared celebration of nature and the arts.

Flickr © vbratone

Holl’s building is regarded as “the gateway” to the complex and the project takes inspiration from traditional Chinese paintings, specifically their shifting viewpoints, layers of space and expanses of mist and water.  ”The straight passages on the ground level gradually turn into the winding passage of the figure above.”  Yet, the upper gallery volume, which is lifted off the ground and is intended to be seen as unraveling, seems too clunky and heavy to read as Holl intended.    Nevertheless, the focus is to connect this unraveled passage with the city of Nanjing, so Holl creates a visual axis to link the building’s passageways with the great Ming Dynasty capital city.

Flickr © vbratone

Bratone had the chance to explore this crazy “architectural playground” – balancing on exposed I-beams and climbing on roofs – to document the construction progress.  After visiting the construction site, Bratone’s images show that the complex is still very much under construction but its seems off to a steady and strong start.  And we’ll be sure to share more updates with you as the construction continues.

Thanks again, Vivian!  See our coverage of Holl’s buildings here.


Steven Holl, Li Hu (design architect)
Hideki Hirahara (associate-in-charge)
Clark Manning, Daijiro Nakayama (project architect)
Joseph Kan, JongSeo Lee, Richard Liu, Sarah Nichols (project team)

associate architects
– Architectural Design Institute, Nanjing University

structural consultant
– Guy Nordenson and Associates

lighting design
– L’Observatoire International

Cite: Cilento, Karen. "In Progress: Nanjing Museum of Art & Architecture / Steven Holl" 23 Jul 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed 27 May 2015. <>
  • dashen

    …not interesting

  • dashen


    • Thomas

      You needed two comments to say all this?

      • dashen

        sorry, I thought the 1st comment failed to be submitted

  • jr

    - without the stairs it wouldn´t be the same.
    - great entrance to the building, maybe a ¨little tired¨, but is a great way to represent the concept of ¨living the building¨
    (it´s a museum of art & architecture, at least it has the idea)
    - at ¨human scale view¨ the building looks amazing, at ¨long distance view¨ im not sure

  • Mark F

    Let me start by saying I’m a big fan of Holl and am not in the business of trashing star architects just for fun. However, I think this potentially powerful building is the one of the worst cases of missed opportunity. What drives me crazy about “floating”, cantilevered buildings is when there is no way to truly experience the cantilever. From the interior, this building will feel no different than a typical stacked structure. The only way to truly “experience” a building like this is to have the opportunity to visually reflect on the elevated structure while being inside the elevated structure. A cantilevered box doesn’t give you the opportunity to do this, but an “L” shaped or snaking form like this building provides the perfect opportunity. If only there was vision glass on portions of the inside face to allow one to be visually aware they are in a “floating” building while being in a floating building. Oh well too bad. Maybe next time.

    • JDcarling

      I agree. The facades are translucent though. I wonder what effect they will have on the interior. Which I have yet to see pictures of.

      You need to view the enlarged versions of the photos to see what I think is a translucent wall system with a 2-3′ thick roof and floor structure.

  • d.teil

    well, i would say the photographs are terrible!

  • alex

    is it too late to say i hate it?

  • critique

    It’s too colorless and seems sad. Like something’s still missing from up there. Or is it because of the weather, the construction or image quality.

  • Rui Agnelo

    Why don’t all the incredible architect experts here wait for the end of the construction and for the final [good] photos to make a constructive commentary?

    Also, the ondulated texture of the inferior concrete walls seems very original. What is the material used on the upper volume’s panels?