On a quiet beach along the coast of northern China’s Bohai Bay, the UCCA Dune Art Museum is carved into the sand, where it gently disappears. Countless years of wind have pushed the beach’s sand into a dune along the shore several meters high, stabilized by low-rising shrubs and other ground cover. Inspired by children’s tireless digging in the sand, the museum lies beneath this dune. “Digging” creates a series of interconnected, organically shaped spaces which, enveloped by sand, resemble caves—the primeval home of man, whose walls were once a canvas for some of humanity’s earliest works of art. Hidden between the sea and the sand, the design of the Dune Art Museum is simple, pure, and touching—a return to primal and timeless forms of space.
▼全景鸟瞰，aerial view ©倪楠
The decision to create the art museum underneath the dunes surrounding it was born out of both the architects’ deep reverence for nature and their desire to protect the vulnerable dune ecosystem, formed by natural forces over thousands of years. Because of the museum, these sand dunes will be preserved instead of leveled to make space for ocean-view real estate developments, as has happened to many other dunes along the shore.
▼首层平面图，ground floor plan ©OPEN建筑事务所
A series of cell-like contiguous spaces accommodate the Dune Art Museum’s rich and varied programs, which include differently-sized galleries and a café. After passing through a long, dark tunnel and a small reception area, the space suddenly opens up as visitors enter the largest multifunctional gallery. There, a beam of daylight from the skylight above silently yet powerfully fills the space.
▼主入口，main entrance ©倪楠
▼中央展厅，main gallery ©吴清山
▼相互连通的展厅，the interconnected galleries ©吴清山
▼从展厅望向户外的沙丘景观，view to the dune landscape from interior ©吴清山
▼展厅天窗，gallery skylight ©吴清山
▼展厅细部，gallery interior view ©OPEN建筑事务所
▼光线在墙壁地面间跳跃折射，a game of light throughout the gallery ©倪楠(左);吴清山(右)
Looking through different openings framed by the building, museum-goers can observe the ever-changing expressions of the sky and sea throughout the day. A spiral staircase leads to a lookout on top of the sand dune, guiding curious audiences from the dark recesses of the museum’s cave-like galleries to the vast openness above. Hidden between the sea and the sand, the museum emerges as a hidden shelter, intimate to the body and soul—a place to thoughtfully contemplate both nature and art.
▼螺旋楼梯，spiral staircase ©吴清山(左) 倪楠(右)
▼室外展览平台，outdoor exhibition terrace ©吴清山
▼屋顶日出，rooftop sunrise ©吴清山
The complex three-dimensional geometry of the Dune Art Museum’s concrete shell was shaped by hand by local workers in Qinhuangdao (some of whom were former shipbuilders), using formwork made from small linear strips of wood and other materials. The architect deliberately retained the irregular and imperfect texture left by the formwork, allowing traces of the building’s manual construction to be felt and seen. In addition, the building’s doors and windows, reception desk, bar counter, and bathroom sinks are all custom-designed and made by hand. The eight tables in the café are also designed by the architect, each with a distinct shape matching that of the floor plans of the eight main gallery spaces.
▼从咖啡厅望向室外平台，terrace of the café ©吴清山
▼咖啡厅的桌子是依据展厅平面形状而设计定制，the tables in the café are designed by the architect, each with a distinct shape matching that of the floor plans of the gallery spaces ©吴清山
▼咖啡厅夜景，café night view ©田方方
The building’s many skylights, each with a different orientation and size, provide natural lighting for the museum’s spaces at all times of the year; its sand-covered roof greatly reduces the building’s summer heat load; and a low-energy, zero-emission ground source heat pump system replaces traditional air conditioning. In the near future, a long walkway will be built opposite the Dune Art Museum, extending into the ocean. At low tide, when the pathway is accessible, visitors will be able to walk to the Sea Art Museum, which will rise out of the sea like a solitary rock. Together, these two museums will form a “Dialogue by the Sea”.
▼朝海的洞口，openings toward sea ©吴清山
▼屋顶天窗夜景，rooftop night view ©田方方
▼夜景鸟瞰，night view ©吴清山
照明设计：清华大学建筑学院张昕工作室 + OPEN建筑事务所
Design Year: 2015 – 2018
Program: Reception, Café, Community Room, Exhibition Spaces, Outdoor Exhibition, Roof Terrace
Building Area: 930 m²
Location: Qinhuangdao, China
Architects: OPEN Architecture
Principals in Charge: LI Hu, HUANG Wenjing
Project Team: ZHOU Tingting (Project Architect), WANG Mengmeng, HU Boji, FANG Kuanyin, Joshua PARKER, LU Di, LIN Bihong, YE Qing, Steven SHI, JIA Han
Local Design Institute: CABR Technology Co., Ltd.
Lighting Design: X Studio, School of Architecture, Tsinghua University, China + OPEN Architecture