Ennead's Vision for the Wuxi Art Museum

John Hill
2. November 2022
Visualization: Brick Visual, courtesy of Ennead Architects
Visualization: Brick Visual, courtesy of Ennead Architects

Per a statement from Ennead Architects, "the architecture of the Wuxi Art Museum is conceived as a metaphorical Taihu Scholar Stone – a contemplative and intricate spatial structure that invites one’s spirit in, but also sits quietly as a meditative object amidst the broader natural context." Further inspired by the Chinese garden tradition, Ennead worked with West 8 to create "an integrated relationship between the surrounding landscape and architecture" in Shangxianhe Wetland Park, a 4km-long park in southeastern Wuxi that links Taihu Lake New Town on the north to Taihu Lake on the south.

Drawing: West 8
"Our vision for the Wuxi Art Museum is to set it in a larger overall composition, highlighting views in and out of the museum through subtractive carves and recesses while emulating the natural erosion of spirit stones. The garden metaphor inspires not only a formal proposition but an experiential one, providing an evolving journey of art and nature through a carefully composed choreography that reveals something new with each step."

Thomas J. Wong, Partner at Ennead Architects

Visualization: Brick Visual, courtesy of Ennead Architects

The three-story museum in the northeast corner of the park was conceptualized as a mass carved to create voids that "define distinct outdoor realms, creating an intimate relationship, intertwining framed views of outdoor art exhibits set within composed natural scenes." A civic plaza (above) is found at the museum's main entrance, while the sizable central court (below), with lily ponds and crisscrossing footbridges, is seen as the main reference point for people inside the museum. Exterior materials are limestone and glass, the former perforated in parts to bring filtered light into the museum spaces. 

Visualization: Brick Visual, courtesy of Ennead Architects
"Interlocked and intertwined with the porous museum experience of courtyards, galleries, thresholds and open-air ceilings and terraces, the architecture and the landscape share a language that extends the experience of the museum from the inside-out. Inspired by Wuxi’s wetland ecology and regional tradition of water management and canals, we asked ourselves, how can we bring human experience to this rich heritage and embed the museum back within the context? As the landscape and architecture symbiotically expand and contract, the sequence of experiences invites the visitor to explore, and to be immersed within a layered system of sculpture gardens."

Daniel Vasini, Creative Director at West 8

Drawing: West 8

The idea of solid and void in the building massing extends to the landscape worked out with West 8, who "created a curated path that meanders through a series of gardens, courtyards, and plazas with open lawns and playscapes." A sequence of outdoor rooms, some of them beneath the cantilevered volumes of the museum, will be used for sculptures and other art installations, while an outdoor amphitheater is intended for visitors to take in art projections, movie screenings and performances.

Drawing: West 8

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