Bauhaus Red

A trip to China for the Bauhaus centenary?

Well, just so: ever since the Chinese Academy of Arts (CCA) purchased a large set of original items by the legendary German school founded in 1919, geography has apparently been turned on its head. Given such impressive content, an equally exceptional setting was needed: the new museum built in Hangzou, capital of Zhejiang province in China, designed by a master of contemporary architecture such as Álvaro Siza together with Carlos Castanheira, is in turn characterised by eloquent natural stone cladding.

The architecture of the museum

The new building stands on the campus of the Chinese Academy of Arts in Hangzhou, a peripheral context where most of the university facilities were designed by Wang Shu (Pritzker Prize 2012). The Chinese architect cooperated closely with his Portuguese colleagues during the preparation of their project. The area available for the museum within the huge but already almost completely occupied campus stands on the south-east edge at the junction of two important roads, and its triangular shape defined the ground plan of the building and the development of its volumes. Alongside the Bauhaus collection, the museum will also host the exhibition of the major CCA collections as well as temporary shows.

The role of natural stone

Red Agra sandstone from India defines the exterior cladding of the museum. Two linear volumes arranged on two sides of the triangular area contain the exhibition spaces, while the large basement is home to the archives and a cafeteria accessible from the building’s central courtyard; above this level, the ground floor contains the entrance, public areas and services, distribution, temporary exhibition facilities and an auditorium. The texture of the stone cladding is achieved by using large slabs with a rough surface finish and regular layout; the elevations are intense and compact, interrupted only by a few openings and punctuated in the sequence of monolithic volumes by episodes – niches, overhangs, intersections – that become clearly identifiable traits in Siza’s poetic composition. A pale sandstone is used in the interior settings of the main levels for flooring and connections.

Siza and Marmomac

Admirers of the Portuguese master may perhaps grasp a certain assonance – if only for the triangular ground plan – between the new Bauhaus Museum in Hangzou and one of his most famous achievements, the Galician Centre for Contemporary Art in Santiago de Compostela (1988 -1993). This is the work that won the fourth edition of the International Stone Architecture Award in 1995 – the historic event set up within the scope of Marmomac with the aim of keeping track of changes in the world of architecture in terms of languages and techniques in design with stone materials. Changes that Álvaro Siza continues to pursue.

Location: Hangzhou, China
Project: Álvaro Siza with Carlos Castanheira
Local Office: The Design Institute of Landscape & Architecture, China Academy of Art
Project: 2012 – 2013
Completion: 2014 – 2018
Total Building Area: 16,000 m2
Site Area: 8.000m2
Images: Fernando Guerra


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