Ennead Architects has revealed the design for the Wuxi Art Museum in the historic port city of Wuxi, China. The competition-winning design proposes a new center for art and culture that builds upon the tradition of the Chinese gardens, a practice with a long legacy in the region. The complex is located in the Shangxianhe Wetland Park, a natural environment that informs and influences the museum experience. According to the designers, the architecture behind the Wuzi Art Museum is conceived as a Taihu Scholar Stone, a contemplative spatial structure sitting quietly in the broader natural context and inviting visitors to pause.
To create an integrated relationship between the surrounding landscape and the architecture of the museum, Ennead collaborated with landscape architecture firm West 8. Organically shaped voids are carved out of the volume of the building to better define distinct outdoor realms. This also contributes to framing the views of outdoor art exhibitions set in carefully composed natural contexts. A curated path meanders through the gardens, courtyards, and plazas, allowing visitors to experience the art installations through an immersive process of discovery.
A civic plaza marks the main entrance with its central court, a space with a distinctive identity marked by the lily-filled waterscape and a reference point for the museum. Similar to the outdoor Art Park, the interior spaces of the museum are conceived as a sequence of distinctive areas alternating art exhibits to the ever-changing views of the surrounding landscape. Various types of lighting contribute to the experience of the gallery spaces. The unique façade perforation and texture introduce filtered natural light and highlight the shaping of the limestone façade.
The articulated limestone façade integrates smooth surfaces and rough, porous areas to create a textured expression. This further underlines the concept of the building as an intricate meditative stone where holes and crevices provide a level of interest and entrancement to the viewer. The architecture aims to present the cultural history of the Chinese gardens that seamlessly integrate art and landscape.
Our vision for the Wuxi Art Museum is to set it in a larger overall composition, highlighting views in and out of the museum through subtractive carves and recesses while emulating the natural erosion of spirit stones. The garden metaphor inspires not only a formal proposition but an experiential one, providing an evolving journey of art and nature through a carefully composed choreography that reveals something new with each step. – designer Thomas J. Wong, Partner at Ennead Architects.
Ennead Architects established an office in Shanghai in 2014 and has been active in Asia for many years. Recently Ennead Architects has unveiled the Shanghai Lingang Special Area master plan, a new hub for global commerce in the Dishui Lake district of Shanghai. The office has also designed the Shanghai Astronomy Museum, which opened in 2021, and the Zhangjiang Science City in Shanghai.