Exhibition: Space Narrative of The Museum of Zhang Zhidong in Wuhan, China by Diameter Narrative Design Studio

Bring up the present appearance of Wuhan through the interlacement and fusion of Zhang’s personal experience and urban modern transformation

Project Specs


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The Museum of Zhang Zhidong in Wuhan is located in Hanyang District, Wuhan city, with a building area of more than 7200 square meters, of which the exhibition area is about 6200 square meters. The main architectural structure was completed in 2014 and designed by renowned architect Daniel Liebeskind. In 2016, Vanke entrusted Diameter Narrative Design Studio with curation and exhibition design, which took nearly three years.

▼张之洞与武汉博物馆建筑外景,exterior view of the Museum of Zhang Zhidong in Wuhan ©直径叙事工作室


There have been so many materials about Zhang Zhidong in several museums of Wuhan. It appears that another museum of Zhang Zhidong is cumbersome and redundant on this land. How to retell a historical issue that has been told by countless people? At the very least, one more “history lesson” on Zhang Zhidong’s merits is neither worthwhile nor necessary. By the design of the internal exhibition of the Museum of Zhang Zhidong in Wuhan, the Diameter Narrative Design Studio opens a new set of narrative perspectives.

▼入口处的张之洞铜像与生平年表,the bronze statue of Zhang Zhidong and his life chronology ©直径叙事工作室


▼开阔的三层中庭空间,the open atrium on the third floor ©直径叙事工作室

▼中庭空间局部,历史学家看张之洞,partial view of the atrium, insights toward Zhang Zhidong from historians ©直径叙事工作室

▼中庭空间局部,地图:张之洞在武汉,partial view of the atrium, the map: Zhang Zhidong was in Wuhan ©直径叙事工作室

▼中庭空间局部,张之洞的著作展示,partial view of the atrium with the exhibition of Zhang Zhidong’s work ©直径叙事工作室

Looking back at history from the present standpoint, we can still see that Zhang Zhidong’s performance in Wuhan has been continued to this day. The process of urban modernization and transformation occurred to Wuhan in the period that Zhang lived there. Zhang Zhidong, who plays a key role in this magnificent history, was feeling alone as a social pioneer at the same time. The interlacement and fusion of Zhang’s personal experience and urban modern transformation brought up the present appearance of Wuhan.

▼张之洞图书馆,the library of Zhang Zhidong ©直径叙事工作室

▼张之洞的智库,the think tank of Zhang Zhidong ©直径叙事工作室

▼通向四层的楼梯空间,采用三角形灯光设计,the staircase leading to 4F with the triangular lighting design ©直径叙事工作室


▼张之洞对武汉的影响——从传统城市格局到现代武汉三镇的演变,Zhang Zhidong’s contribution to Wuhan – evolution of Wuhan: from antique urban pattern to modern city pattern ©直径叙事工作室

▼张之洞对城市公共基础设施的贡献——武汉近代城市公共设施与公共管理的发端,Zhang Zhidong’s contribution to the establishment of urban public infrastructure – inception: municipal construction and public management in modern Wuhan ©直径叙事工作室

▼张之洞对武汉的影响——全方位激活武汉近代工商业,Zhang Zhidong’s contribution to Wuhan – the comprehensive modern industry and commerce in Wuhan ©直径叙事工作室

▼张之洞对武汉的影响——近代企业体制探索:汉冶萍公司及其他官办企业的变迁,Zhang Zhidong’s contribution to Wuhan – searching for modern enterprise systems: Han-Ye-Pin Co. & Other government-run companies’ evolution ©直径叙事工作室

▼张之洞对武汉的影响——因近代工业体系而生的新汉阳,Zhang Zhidong’s contribution to Wuhan – new Hanyang born of the modern industrial system ©直径叙事工作室

▼张之洞对武汉的影响——兴办近代军事工业与军制革新,Zhang Zhidong’s contribution to Wuhan – developing the modern military industry and facilitating the reform of the military system ©直径叙事工作室

▼近代武汉的狱政改革(观看),参观者化身狱卒观看铁栏之中的变迁,prison reform in modern Wuhan (watching mode), visitors act as jailers to watch the changes inside the bars ©直径叙事工作室

▼近代武汉的狱政改革(内部),interior view of the renovating the prison system ©直径叙事工作室

▼对张之洞的评价,the insights toward Zhang Zhidong ©直径叙事工作室

Every visitor to the museum is dragged into the theater-like space. Audiences are invited into a complex narrative field, sometimes as city watchmen to survey the city, sometimes as jailers to watch the changes inside the bars. Sometimes they become the new era students thirst for knowledge, and sometimes they stand on the platform, becoming Zhang Zhidong himself to taste a reformist’s loneliness and helplessness. The overlapping experience and the changes of perspective outline the truth hidden behind the history gradually, which is not a designation or assertion from the historical authority or the design team, but a co-authoring authenticity that the audience constantly perceives by the identity switch.

▼张之洞对教育的影响——立体化的社会教育体系,Zhang Zhidong’s contribution to the education in Wuhan – building up the three-dimensional social education system ©直径叙事工作室

▼张之洞对教育的影响——中西结合的近代学堂教育,Zhang Zhidong’s contribution to the education in Wuhan – modern education system combining Chinese and Western ©直径叙事工作室

▼张之洞对文化的影响——近代武汉报刊业与城市公共文化,Zhang Zhidong’s contribution to the culture in Wuhan – the press and public culture in modern Wuhan ©直径叙事工作室


When the audiences finish thinking and look up to the real and quiet Hanyang Iron Works outside the floor-to-ceiling window, they may suddenly realize that Wuhan is exactly the biggest exhibition project of the Museum of Zhang Zhidong in Wuhan. The key to understanding the traces of time of this city is hidden in the devices, perspectives and feelings just experienced. The audience turn out to be the very origin of cognition on the space-time axis, to watch the history of Wuhan and Zhang Zhidong, also the nowadays landscape related to themselves.

▼武汉现代交通、邮政与通讯体系的肇始,the beginning of modern transportation system, post system and communication system ©直径叙事工作室

▼近代都市职业人群的产生,the emergence of modern urban professional crowd ©直径叙事工作室


Today, museums are not just an “exhibition” place. Under the integration of this concept, even the spatial layout that is not conducive to the display (such as the corners of the building and oblique plane) has become the exquisite narrative language, shaping an extraordinary spatial narrative experience. Based on the history of Wuhan city, the Museum of Zhang Zhidong in Wuhan has become a unique game space and narrative context of thinking.

▼倾斜的坡面展示空间——一个改革者的孤独(展示视角),the exhibition space on the oblique plane – a lonely reformer (display perspective) ©直径叙事工作室

▼一个改革者的孤独(体验视角),a lonely reformer (experience perspective) ©直径叙事工作室

空间设计 | 氙建筑
新媒体设计 | Studio NOWHERE
灯光设计 | 吉晟通照明
影视媒体 | 兄弟设计创作组
空间顾问 | 小小空间事务所


Curation and exhibition design team
Curation design | Diameter Narrative Design Studio
Space design | Xian Architects
Graphic design | STONES DESIGN Lab.
New media design | Studio NOWHERE
Lighting design | Jishengtong Lighting
Film and television media | Brothers Design
Installation artist | Zhou Wendou
Sculpture artist | Li He
Technical support | Dong Xuantian
Space consultants | Small Space Studio

Exhibition construction
Construction: Shenzhen Gies Exhibition Group
Installation: Shanghai Jianzhun Landscape Engineering Limited
Exhibit reproduction: Wuhan Tiangong Times Art and Culture Development Limited
Hubei Diance Archives Technology Development Limited

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