Peeking out from beneath a seaside sand dune on the coast of Bohai Bay in northern China, the Dune Art Museum evokes an exquisite alien artifact, revealed by the same winds that formed the beach’s unique topography over thousands of years.
The building’s designers, Beijing firm OPEN Architecture, sought to embed the structure within the landscape in order to preserve it: Many similar geographical features along the same shoreline have been destroyed by luxury real estate developments that have plowed over the dunes to open up panoramic ocean vistas. To fuse the architecture with this environment, the architects shaped the museum as a series of organic forms not unlike natural caves. However, these chambers are neither dark nor dank. Each of the building’s eight galleries is awash in sunlight that floods in through a series of skylights, as well as larger openings at the side of the dune that expose the interiors to sweeping views of the bay.
The curvaceous volumes were hand-shaped by local workers, including many former shipbuilders, using intricate formwork. This technique lends the concrete walls a rugged texture that is in stark contrast to the complex geometries and modern feeling of the spaces, which are painted a bright white that allows the sunlight to gently reflect within the rooms. Skylights are carefully positioned throughout to ensure the inner reaches of the structure enjoy natural lighting year-round, and the roof’s sandy covering helps keep the interior cool in summer. The institution is working, with the help of the local community, to restore native plant life atop the dunes, and the ever-strengthening root systems of the native grasses and flowers will help ensure longevity for both this delicate ecosystem and the museum itself.
AZ Awards category Architecture: Buildings Under 1,000 SQM Project Dune Art Museum Location Qinhuangdao, China Firm OPEN Architecture, Beijing, China Team Li Hu and Huang Wenjing with Zhou Tingting, Wang Mengmeng, Hu Boji, Fang Kuanyin, Joshua Parker, Lu Di, Lin Bihong, Ye Qing, Steven Shi and Jia Han
Protecting the sand dunes of coastal China, this art museum by OPEN Architecture in the winner in Architecture: Buildings Under 1,000 Square Metres.