15 February 2013

SiFang Art Museum (opening?!)

East facade.

Last summer I visited Steven Holl's SiFang Art Museum (四方美术馆 literally the "four-sided museum") in the outskirts of Nanjing (thanks for the initiative, Adam!). We could not figure-out if the museum was open or not, and its website was of little help, so we decided to check it out by ourselves. The museum is part of a bigger project, the Contemporary International Practical Exhibition of Architectureintended to project Nanjing into the international art scene (check this 2011 N-Y Times article). It was supposed to open in October 2011 but the opening was delayed until June 2013, as we can read from the museum's website.
The museum is located in a natural reserve on the western bank of the Yangzi river, and no signage whatsoever helps finding it. We relied on the address found in the internet, and hopped into a taxi. The taxi driver had no idea about the place and had to stop several times to aks people on the street for the right way. Needless to say, they did not have any idea either. Luckily enough, the structure is visible from the street, so we were able, after "touring" for a while, to locate it.

Location of the museum. Nanjing's center on the right of the Yangzi River.

Close-up. You can see the museum in the red circle.

The museum, as we were expecting, was closed, but we managed to convince the local watchman to let us into the property to have a look and take some pictures. The building seems to have some decent detailing, considering Chinese standards and it's a pit not to have visited the interior. Before reaching the central, scenographic stair leading to the museum's entrance, one wanders through a series of dark concrete walls, placed following an ortogonal geometry, that define the exterior space like a garden. The concrete was poured in forms shaped like stacked bamboo canes and create an interesting contrast with the diaphanous, "flying" volume.

Dark concrete with a bamboo cane texture.

South front.

Besides the architecture though, it remains to be seen if the effort of creating a new artistic and cultural hub in Nanjing will work and how this private initiative could reach this goal. Scattered around the hilly landscape, in fact, you can see a number of different buildings (e.g. Wang Shu-like), either under construction or empty. We will see if next June at least the SiFang Art Museum will finally welcome its first visitors.

More pics here.
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