▼中国国家博物馆在天安门的位置，Photomontage of the National Museum of China situated at the Tian‘anmen Square Author: gmp
▼ 从故宫看中国国家博物馆，View from the entrance of the Forbidden City with the Chinese National Museum on the left Author: Christian Gahl
The conversion and extension of the Chinese National Museum combines the former Chinese History Museum with the Chinese Revolutionary Museum. Completed in 1959 as one of ten important public buildings in Tian’anmen Square, in direct proximity to the Forbidden City, the museum still constitutes a milestone in history of modern Chinese architecture.
Outline schemes for the conversion and extension project were invited from ten international architectural firms, the proposal by architects von Gerkan, Marg and Partners (gmp) together with CABR of Beijing being adjudged preferred bidder, ahead of Foster and Partners, Kohn Pedersen Fox, OMA and Herzog & de Meuron etc. The original submission by gmp envisaged gutting the existing museum. The central block would be removed, and the large space thereby created spanned by a bronze flying roof linking the old building and the extension. The flying roof was planned to house the main exhibition on Chinese history, with a direct view towards the sights of the city. Following a discussion with the client and Chinese architectural experts, this scheme was revised, with the aim of integrating more of the external impact of the old building in the new building, though without abolishing the immediately obvious distinction between old and new. This would allow the building itself to illustrate the continuity of history.
The task was to combine the northern and southern wings into an integral complex of buildings by removing the central structure to make the Chinese National Museum.
The 260 m (850ft)-long hall acts as its central access area. It widens in the centre to embrace the existing central front entrance facing Tian’anmen Square. The ‘forum’ thus created acts as a vestibule and multifunctional events area, with all auxiliary service functions for the public attached – cafes and teahouses, bookshops and souvenir shops, and ticket offices and toilets. The classic tripartite division of China’s historical buildings governs the design of the ‘forum’ as well. A stone base serves as a platform for a wooden structure, with a coffered roof structure resting on a DCB layer on top of it. Despite the vastness of the ‘forum’, a homely atmosphere was sought, particularly in the harmonious use of materials – local granite on the ground floor and walls of the base layer and wooden cladding in the gallery area.
▼ 在天安门广场朝东看主入口，Entrance area at the Tian‘anmen Square. In the front the building with the inset staggered roofs of the new building Author: Christian Gahl
The main entrance of the museum continues to be oriented towards the west, but, for the first time, the north and south entrances are linked via the ‘forum’. This space helps visitors to orientate, and all public areas of the almost 200,000 m² (2,066 m sq. ft) building are accessed from here.
The dimensions of the ‘forum’ also relate to the sheer size of Tian’anmen Square and the size of the building itself. Around 8–10m people a year are expected to visit the National Museum. The architectural shape of the space is a contemporary interpretation of traditional elements of Chinese buildings. This is already evident in the west courtyard, accessed via broad steps reminiscent of the steps in front of the temple precincts in the Forbidden City just round the corner.
The western entrance of the existing building, the Mengguobao facing Tian’anmen Square, is notable for its series of slender pillars, linked with each other by an entablature on the pattern of temple and palace architecture, with the roof structure resting on it. The west facade of the new building is planned analogously, the ‘dougong’ resting on its supports and carrying a prominent projecting roof. In historical Chinese architecture, the ‘dougong’ is a slightly projecting feature of bearings and joist ends.
The materiality of the roof, which in the Forbidden City and the existing building consisted of glazed roofing shingle in imperial yellow, is re-interpreted with slightly curved, bronze-coloured metal plates. This meant the flighted roof typologies of the buildings in Tian’anmen Square and the Forbidden City were continued in the new building, yet interpreted in a contemporary fashion in the detail and materials.
▼ 西入口 Western entrance Author: Christian Gahl
The entrance doors to the new buildings consist of perforated bronze plates that filter incidental daylight and thus produce a muted atmosphere in the interior, such as is peculiar to traditional Chinese buildings with their ornamented window shutters.
The motif of perforation was inspired by an ancient bronze panelone of the prize items among the one million works of art that make up the National Museum collection. This ornamentation also recurs in the forming of the balustrades in the interiors of the museum.
The north wing facing Chang’an Avenue contains the exhibition relating to the modern history of China, while the south wing houses the administration and library. In the new building, the main exhibition areas are distributed over four superimposed stories north and south of the central hall, where state receptions, banquets and similar events are held. Below the central hall is a cinema and a theater, an events room with fixed tiered seating installed, in which not only lectures but – with the planned acoustics – also classical concerts and other stage-based events can be performed. The base level and basements contain the museum’s workshops and laboratories, depositories and underground garage.
▼建筑的廊柱和窗户，用现代的语言诠释传统；The colonnades and window styles – typical of the existing building – were translated into contemporary design vocabulary Author: Christian Gahl
The harmonious use of materials in the interiors – wood, stone and glass – is found throughout the building, creating a natural feeling of identity and familiarity. Rooms of special significance are emphasized by the use of differentiated materials. Thus the central hall opposite the main west entrance and the theater are given red wall coverings that improve the acoustics. The Jade Hall above the ‘forum’ is notable for its backlit cast glass plates made of recycled material.
The 191,900 m² National Museum is the largest museum in the world, its purpose being to act as a showcase for the history and art of one of the oldest cultures of mankind.
▼东立面细部；Detail of the eastern facade Author: Christian Gahl
▼西入口大厅及其楼梯；Western entrance hall at the Tian‘anmen Square with staircase – Forum Author: Christian Gahl
Bids invited August 2004
Revisions commenced Autumn 2005
Foundation stone laid March 2007
Museum completed 1st March 2011
The museum in operation
• the National Museum can accommodate up to 19,000 visitors at once
• up to 30,000 people a day can visit the National Museum
• the Forum can hold up to 14,000 visitors at once
• the National Museum owns over a million exhibits
• over ten thematic exhibitions on different aspects of art and international
exchange exhibitions can be put on in parallel
Size of auditorium (cinema) 300 m²
Seating capacity 264
Size of screen 12 × 6 m
Seating capacity 714
Exterior Light Chinese granite stone, sparkling steel and glass facade Interior Light Chinese granite stone, black cherry panelling, sparkling and bronze-coloured aluminium cladding, patinated bronze, red fabric
At all cardinal points. Visitors to the museum enter from the west and north. The east entrance leads to the concert auditorium and cinema. The south entrance is for staff. Deliveries and the entrance/exit to parking are in the NE/SE corners. The museum can be reached by metro, bus and car.
▼ 西入口大厅，Western view inside the Forum Author: Christian Gahl
▼ 大厅中的楼梯，Staircase inside the Forum Author: Christian Gahl
▼ 帮助游客定位的，公共主入口大厅，The forum helps the visitors to orientate, all public areas are accessible from here Author: Christian Gah
▼ 墙上挂了红色织物，The walls of the Central Hall are covered with red fabric Author: Christian Gahl
▼ VIP区域，VIP area Author: Christian Gahl
▼ 大厅上方的翡翠厅 The Jade Hall above the Forum（左上），264座的中央电影大厅，The cinema below the Central Hall offers 264 seats（右上）；入口的雕花装饰再次出现在内部栏杆上，The ornamentation of the entrance doors recurs in the forming of the balustrades in the interior of the museum（左下）；大理石与黑樱桃木的组合，Aside from the light Chinese granite stone, Black Cherry cladding was used inside the building Author: Christian Gahl（右下）
▼ 入口的雕花装饰再次出现在内部栏杆上，The ornamentation of the entrance doors recurs in the forming of the balustrades in the interior of the museum（左），帮助游客定位的，公共主入口大厅，The forum helps the visitors to orientate, all public areas are accessible from here（下）
▼ 楼梯间，Stairwell，雕花青铜板装饰 （左）The entrance doors to the new building consist of perforated bronze plates Author: Ben McMillan （右）
▼ 施工现场，建筑的新与旧并存，以及其间的绿色空间。Photos of the construction site – green courtyards between the old building and the annex offer space for art, events and to linger. Author: Ben McMillan
▼顶视图，Top view Author: gmp
▼ 平面 Floor plan of Gallery Level；Floor plan of Entrance Level with access from north, south and east；Floor plan of Main Level – Forum, Main Entrance, Entrance Level west
▼ 立面：West elevation；East elevation；North elevation；Author: gmp
▼ 大厅长剖，Forum: Longitudinal section Author: gmp
Client National Museum of China
Design Meinhard von Gerkan and Stephan Schütz with Stephan Rewolle
and Doris Schäffler
Design staff Gregor Hoheisel, Katrin Kanus, Ralf Sieber, Du Peng, Chunsong
Revised design Meinhard von Gerkan and Stephan Schütz with Stephan
Project leaders Matthias Wiegelmann with Patrick Pfleiderer
Staff Bao Wei, Johanna Enzinger, Anna Bulanda-J., Kong Jing, Andreas
Goetze, Guo Fuhui, Mulyanto, Chen Yue, Zheng Xin, Gao Hua, Xing Jiuzhou,
Helga Reimund, Tobias Keyl, Christian Dorndorf, Annette Loeber, Verena
Fischbach, Jiang LinLin, Liu Yan, Mehrafarin Ruzbehi, Yoko Uraji, Lu Han, Xia
Lin, Tian Jinghai, Uli Bachmann, Ajda Guelbahar, Iris Belle, Sabine Stage
Structural engineering schlaich bergermann und partner, Stuttgart;
Electrical engineering CABR
Landscaping RLA Rehwaldt Landscape Architects, Dresden / Beijing
Event technology ADA Acoustic Design Ahnert, Berlin
Lighting design conceptlicht GmbH, Traunreut;
TsingHua Design Institute, Beijing
Facade SuP Ingenieure GmbH, Darmstadt / Beijing
Acoustics Müller-BBM Group and ADA Acoustic Design Ahnert
Chinese partner firm CABR (Chinese Academy of Building Research), Beijing
Project management Beijing Guojin Consultants Co., Ltd., Beijing
Key data of the building
Total floor space 191,900 m²
Total floor space of existing building 35,000 m²
New floor space 156,900 m²
Overall length/breadth 330 m × 204 m
Floors 7 (5 above ground, 2 below)
Exhibition space 49 rooms
Size of exhibition rooms 500–2,000 m²
Height of exhibition rooms 5.25–12 m
Total area/length/breadth 8,840 m² / 260 m / 34 m
Height 27 m
Construction costs ¥ 2.5 bn / US $ 380 m