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For almost 1,700 years, the city of Jingdezhen in southeastern China has been synonymous with porcelain production. It’s this rich history that the sprawling Imperial Kiln Museum, designed by Studio Zhu-Pei, honours and celebrates. In fact, during the site’s excavation, the architecture team uncovered a set of Ming dynasty ruins, and rather than relocate the foundations, Zhu enveloped the remnants in his 10,370-square-metre scheme, transforming them into five sunken courtyards.

The architectural design, meanwhile, borrowed directly from brick kilns. Zhu adapted the region’s traditional method of building the porcelain-firing enclosures in order to create the museum’s eight barrel-vaulted structures, but with an innovative sliding scaffolding system he devised to support the construction of their concrete shells.

Lined in new and reclaimed bricks, the deep and cavernous spaces house exhibition halls, an auditorium, an amphitheatre, a bookstore, a café and more. Roofline perforations that allow light to dapple the interior are a direct nod to the smoke holes of traditional kilns — and suggest the experience of actually inhabiting these endemic structures.

“This project is a beautiful synthesis of a museum program, an innovative site plan and the use of a traditional material — brick — in a very creative way.”
Gilles Saucier, AZ Awards 2021 Juror

The naturally ventilated halls also prioritize a connection to the surrounding landscape, with its gently swaying bamboo, and to the trickling waters of the shallow pools that line their perimeter. The feat is equal parts poetic and technical, and it expertly elevates the area’s vernacular — one deeply enmeshed with the city’s cultural memory — on a grand scale for a new era.

Team Pei Zhu, Changchen You, Mo Han, Fan He, Shuhei Nakamura, Ling Liu, Shun Zhang, Zhigang Wu, Yang Du, Shengchen Yang, Yida Chen, Chenglong He and Xinyue Ding

Winner: Buildings Over 1,000SqM
AZ Awards 2021 Winner: Jingdezhen Imperial Kiln Museum

For almost 1,700 years, the city of Jingdezhen in southeastern China has been synonymous with porcelain production.

Explore more Award Winners

2014
WinnerBuildings Over 1,000SqM
Location
Fayetteville, Arkansas
Firm(s)
Marlon Blackwell Architect, Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects
Team
Marlon Blackwell, Mark Herrmann, David Jaehning and Joe Stanley with Meryati Johari Blackwell, Jonathan Boelkins, William Burks, Angela Carpenter, Craig Curzon, John Dupree, Conley Fikes, Laura Lyon, Sarah Menyhart Bennings, J. B. Mullins, Bradford Payne, Michael Pope, Kimberly Braden Prescott, Stephen Reyenga, Reese Rowland, Michelle Teague, Jim Thacker, Christopher Thomas and Wesley Walls.
2017
Award of MeritBuildings Over 1,000SqM
Location
Iowa City, U.S.
Firm
Steven Holl Architects, U.S.
2022
Award of MeritBuildings Over 1,000SqM
Award of MeritCommercial and Institutional
Location
Toronto, Canada
Firms
Kohn Shnier Architects and ERA Architects, Canada