Palace Mu­seum warns on ‘mav­er­ick’ de­signs

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By WANG KAI­HAO in Bei­jing wangkai­hao@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

When work starts on the new north­ern area for Bei­jing’s Palace Mu­seum, also known as the For­bid­den City, “mav­er­ick ar­chi­tec­ture” will not be al­lowed.

This was made clear on Thurs­day when the de­sign blue­prints from five can­di­dates were un­veiled.

The new mu­seum, af­fil­i­ated with the For­bid­den City, will cover about 125,000 square me­ters — in­clud­ing 40,000 sq me­ters un­der­ground — along a river and reser­voir in Shangzhuang in north­west Bei­jing. The lo­ca­tion, Xiyuhe, is about 30 km from the Palace Mu­seum.

The en­tire project, in­clud­ing aux­il­iary in­fra­struc­ture and a public park, will oc­cupy as much as 620,000 sq me­ters.

“The de­sign of a mu­seum is not a fash­ion that can be eas­ily aban­doned when a trend ends,” said Shan Jix­i­ang, direc­tor of the Palace Mu­seum and a vet­eran ar­chi­tect. “Once built, it has to serve the public for a long time and live up to the test of his­tory.”

In re­cent years, China has seen a surge in ar­chi­tec­ture fea­tur­ing ex­otic fa­cades, at­tract­ing wide­spread com­ment that it has be­come a testing ground for for­eign de­sign­ers.

Shan said in­ter­na­tional bids were not sought for the new mu­seum’s con­struc­tion be­cause “such a trend will make ev­ery Chi­nese city look sim­i­lar. Chi­nese ar­chi­tects de­serve this pre­cious chance to prove their tal­ents.”

The blue­prints have been sub­mit­ted by ar­chi­tects from in­sti­tu­tions in­clud­ing the Chi­nese Academy of En­gi­neer­ing, Ts­inghua Uni­ver­sity and the Bei­jing In­sti­tute of Ar­chi­tec­tural De­sign. Work is planned to start by the end of this year.

The Palace Mu­seum is set­ting up a panel of nine

Xiyuhe ex­perts to judge the sub­mis­sions, and public views will also be heard. The blue­prints are on dis­play in the mu­seum for opin­ions, and the mu­seum’s so­cial net­work ac­count is also open for sug­ges­tions.

Some of the blue­prints fea­ture the For­bid­den City’s sym­met­ri­cal lay­out, in­clud­ing that of Zhang Yu from the Bei­jing In­sti­tute of Ar­chi­tec­tural De­sign.

Zhuang Weimin from Ts­inghua Uni­ver­sity is the only can­di­date to break away from such a lay­out — us­ing a long trans­par­ent cor­ri­dor to connect sep­a­rate halls.

“It’s not nec­es­sary to­day to make a replica of the For­bid­den City,” Zhuang said. “We want to mix Chi­nese and West­ern styles and bet­ter echo the sur­round­ing nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment.”

The new area will greatly ex­pand ex­hi­bi­tion space for the Palace Mu­seum. As China’s royal palace from 1420 to 1911, it houses 1.8 mil­lion cul­tural trea­sures, most of which can­not be shown due to safety con­cerns.

“For ex­am­ple, it’s im­pos­si­ble to ex­hibit large pieces such as ta­pes­tries and fur­ni­ture in the old mu­seum,” said mu­seum direc­tor Shan.

The new north­ern area is ex­pected to at­tract more than 3 mil­lion vis­i­tors an­nu­ally.

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