“The Light of Buddha” is the first exhibition of a private collection ever allowed in the Palace Museum, commonly known as the Forbidden City. studio O was commissioned by Beijing-based Zhiguan Gallery (止观美术馆) to develop the exhibition design and retrofit installation system for the display of 112 antique Buddhist sculptures spanning from the 4th century a.d. to 16th a.d. from the Himalayan regions (Pakistan, North India, Nepal, Tibet)
Occupying the entirety of the Palace of Abstinence, the exhibition is located in the southeastern quadrant of the Forbidden City. Within the Palace, the collection of Buddhist sculptures is displayed between two main pavilions: Zhai Gong (Hall of Abstinence, 斋宫) to south and Cheng Su Dian (Hall of Sincerity, 诚肃殿) to north. The exterior spaces are also included in the design and create a path for visitors to move clockwise through the space from the outer-courtyard inward.
The exhibition begins with a metaphorical dialogue between the visitor, the first installation and the backdrop of the Forbidden City – it is a journey that guides the viewer to the place from where the exhibited sculptures originate. Abstractly representing the eight most significant peaks of the Himalayan mountain range, audiences encounter eight 2.5 meter-tall white steel pillars upon entering the exhibition courtyard. By proportionally reducing the heights of these peaks to human scale, the peaks seem within reach. As nature often exists beyond our scale, subverting the great difference between man and nature allows us an opportunity to reflect on human existence.
▼院落中的白色钢柱装置，white steel pillars in the courtyard
▼装置模型，model of the installation
通过第二进院落，然后进入斋宫，是展览的第一部分。与诚肃殿展厅展陈理念相同, 这些造像的摆放是沿着空间内部一周，并且以定制的橱窗方式呈现的。通过创建一个中性的，几乎不可见的背景，一系列的开口，带给观众与每一件造像艺术品之间较为私人的观赏体验。展览设计兼顾整体感受和个性化体验,观众与每件藏品之间的相遇仿佛一次独特而个性化的旅程。展览的布局模拟了对佛像的守护, 将久远的历史信息序列保存下来,在通过一个个“窗口”来观看和欣赏这些历史的片段。一个个窗口可被看作立体绘画，里面古老的造像传达出历史和文化的永恒叙事。
The journey continues through the second courtyard and then into the Zhai Gong(斋宫) pavilion, where it meets the first part of the exhibition. Here, like in the Cheng Su Dian(诚肃殿) pavilion, the sculptures are set along the space’s interior perimeter and presented within customized system of vitrines. By creating a neutral and almost invisible background, the visitor can intimately experience the artworks through a series of small openings that reveal each figurine. The exhibition design can be experienced and viewed as a whole, yet simultaneously also presents the opportunity for unique, personalized journeys for each visitor and with each sculpture. It is as if the exhibition layout is designed to protect the sculptures – creating a sequence where fragments of history are viewed and appreciated through “frames.”Frames that are perceived as tridimensional paintings in which the antique sculptures transmit timeless narratives of history and culture.
▼展厅，展品通过定制橱窗展示，exhibition halls, the artworks are presented through a series of small openings
▼橱窗 近景，close view of the windows
在整个设计过程中，studio O工作室审慎创造适宜的环境以展显古代喜马拉雅造像匠人的极致的工艺。为了进一步完成较为私密观展体验环境的营造，通过重新评估现有的室内展陈环境，工作室对展览灯光做了决定性修正改进。原有的照明条件及展柜大面积玻璃窗口，不适合直接用于这个特别展览的藏品展示。studio O对环境光照进行控制，同时加入配合一系列直立的黑色独立模块化结构上的精确开口上的局部照明。这些临时模块单元，在不破坏原有宫殿建筑结构基础上，并进一步保证了可以自由地定位每个窗口的开口大小和位置高度。它们结合了灵活的照明系统，是内置在金属框架和为每个造像特别的设计。
Throughout the design process, studio O remained committed to creating a discreet environment suitable for exhibiting the utmost refined craftsmanship of the ancient Himalayan masters. In order to create an intimate environment that considers yet re-evaluates the existing interior conditions, lighting plays a decisive role. The existing lighting conditions due to the wide-glass window displays were not suitable for viewing the private collection. Therefore, studio Ocontrols the amount of ambient light and focuses it on the precise openings within a series of vertical, black, self-standing panels. These panels also serve as a temporary design system that accommodates the original building structure without damaging existing walls, and further allows freedom for defining the size and position of each display opening. They incorporate a flexible lighting system that is built into metal frame and designed specifically for each sculpture.
▼展陈装置分解示意图，composition of the exhibition window
▼模型，通过一个个窗口欣赏展品，model, enjoy the exhibits through sequenced frames
As each spatial experience depends on our arrival in it, passing from the first exhibition hall section into the second allows viewers to further reconsider their conceptions of space. The installation in the central pavilion thus serves as a link, and a point of restful contemplation between the two pavilions. Mirroring the pilgrimage Buddhist monks make to the Himalayan region, the fabric installation, comprised of 135 layers of textile, welcomes visitors into the calm, peaceful and timeless space of a lit tunnel as an allegory of an inner reflection. After visiting the last exhibition hall, the journey is concluded via the passage through the adjacent courtyard and then back to the entrance. A progressive movement through the ancient architecture before returning to the outer world.
▼中央连廊，设有由织物构成的装置，central pavilion with a huge installation composed of layers of textile
▼展厅模型，models of the exhibition halls
▼中央展厅平面图，plan of the central pavilion
▼北展厅平面图，plan of the north pavilion
▼南展厅平面图，plan of the south pavilion
合作方：Sergio Boccia Lighting Design
Project Name: “The light of Buddha” exhibition
Design: studio O
Contact E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Design&Completion Year: 2018
Leader Designer&Team: studio O
Project Location: The Palace Museum. Beijing. China
Gross Built Area (square meters): 3811 sqm
Photo Credits: Mathias Magg
Partners: Sergio Boccia Lighting Design
More: studio O