Simian Mountain is located in the lush Jiangjin district of China, near the metropolis of Chongqing, and enjoys a considerable reputation in the country thanks to the many legends around it, all of which have to do with love. Two of the numerous examples are the staircase to be found here, comprising six thousand steps, each hand-carved by a boy for love, and the highest waterfall in China, claimed to be “the First Heart-Shaped Waterfall in the World”. It is in this context that well-known Chinese architecture firm CROX found itself designing the new art museum in Yunshan, in collaboration with Yuan Gou Design. The area surrounding Simian Mountain is rich in natural beauty and has become a remarkably popular destination for curious visitors from all over China and beyond, in part thanks to its proximity to the historical site of Zhongshan and the fascinating ancient stories for which it is so famous. When talking about the place, the architects themselves expressly mention of the “extraordinary culture of “love”” with which the place is imbued, going on to explain: “People come here to seek out the origins of love, no matter what kind: the love between people, love for objects, and even the love of nature”.
In terms of the design, Yuan Gou was responsible for the architectural structure, whilst CROX headed up the design and division of the rooms. From the outset, the idea at the heart of the project was to use the same natural elements found in the surrounding environment as a means of recreating, both formally and visually, the uniquely pleasant, rich and vibrant atmosphere that distinguishes the area.
As visitors take their first look at the new Yunshan Art Museum, they are greeted by an artificial body of water that perfectly reflects the image of its imposing entrance, housed under a roof featuring two massive, dramatic pitches that come almost all the way down to the water’s surface. Coming into the entrance hall, the floor is lowered and, descending further down a few narrow stone steps, they find themselves in the centre of a space that is magniloquent in its sheer height and natural light. This space features large, illuminated written signs hanging strikingly from the ceiling, providing a counterpoint to the emptiness of the atrium. This is the first art installation that visitors will encounter in the museum: a work of calligraphy entitled ‘Love Waterfall’.
When creating the interiors, CROX used a wide array of materials, forming vast spaces that, whilst flowing into one another, maintain well-defined borders thanks to the colours of the floor and wall coverings used. The entrance hall, for example, has a grey stone floor, with all the walls made of wood, stretching all the way up to the high ceiling. Continuing through the museum, however, leads us to exhibition spaces in which wood is used for the floors and walls, whilst the ceiling provides the handsome contrast of white plaster. Further on, meanwhile, visitors will find pure white marble underfoot; looking around, they will discover that they are immersed in a completely white environment suspended between refreshment areas, convivial lounges and works of painting or sculpture.
In the very heart of the museum, the ceiling takes on a rather distinctive dimension designed by CROX as a representation of the sky: another natural element that is central in Chinese poetics. It consists of a structure of undulating, transparent strips, placed equidistant from one another and illuminated by special LEDs that imitate the sun’s rays.
To conclude, the architects express their poetics with these words: “The sky surrounds you whenever you look up. The ceiling’s three-dimensional wavy structure is inspired by the various cloud forms floating over Simian Mountain. The sky is right above your head, delivering an ever-changing visual and spatial sensation”.
Project Name: Yunshan Art Museum
Space Design: CROX
Design Team: C.R.Lin , Li Bentao, Duan Meichen, Mo Shulin, Ling Yufeng, Zhao Wenhui, Huang Peigeng, Zhu Sihan, Wan Ruoja, Gu Bowen, Liu Jingfei
Soft Decoration Design: CROX + Shanghai Dayan Architectural Design Consulting Co., Ltd
Architectural Design: Yuan Gou Design & Consultant
Landscape Design: Chongqing Wei Tu Landscape Design Co., Ltd.+ CROX
Client: China Construction Real Estate (Tianjin) Co., Ltd
Spatial Nature: tourist center, town marketing exhibition hall, art exhibition
Venue: Jiangjin District, Siping Town, Chongqing
Construction Unit: Shenzhen Jianyi Decoration Group Co., Ltd
Indoor Area: 5800 M2
Main Materials: black walnut, Douglas fir solid wood, artificial stone, terrazzo, marble, granite, red copper, manual paint, brown glass
Photographer: Kuomin Lee