Ordos Museum

Project details
Architect: MAD Architects
Town: Ordos City, China

Familiar yet distinct, the Ordos Museum designed by MAD Architects appears to have either landed in the desert from another world or to always have existed. From atop a dune-like urban plaza, the building is enriched with a convergence of naturalistic interiors, bathed in light. 

Six years ago, the Inner Mongolia Ordos was an extended landscape of the majestic Gobi desert. Today, it is an urban centre mired in a common controversy in modern Chinese civilization: the conflict between the people's long-standing traditions and their dreams of the future. In 2005, the local bureaucrats established a new master plan for its city development. Upon the initialization of this master plan, MAD was commissioned by the Ordos city government to conceive a museum to be a centrepiece to the new great city.

All image credits: Iwaan Baan 

Influenced by Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic domes, MAD envisioned a mysterious abstract form capable of fostering an alternate, timeless development of Chinese tradition and future. Whilst the surface of this shape functions as a metal container critical to protect the interior from the harsh winters and frequent sand storms of the region, metaphorically this external layer operates as a shield protecting the precious culture and history of the city from the unknown growth of the city. The museum appears to float over a waving sand hill, a gesture saluting the landscapes which have now been supplanted by the streets and buildings of the new cityscape. 

Entering the museum presents visitors with a strong contrast to the exterior: an airy monumental cave flushed with natural light through skylights. The cave links to a canyon which carves out a void between the galleries and exhibition hall and is brightly illuminated at the top. Patrons manoeuvre along the base of these primitive surroundings and through the light across mid-air tectonic bridges, reminiscent of the intersection of the past and the future of the Gobi landscape. Visitors will repeatedly cross these sky bridges and reflect upon their journey from a variety of picturesque vantages. The local community, as well, is encouraged to pass through the base of the central canyon which connects the two public entries at opposite ends without entering the exhibition hall or galleries. The varying internalized flows of circulation are guided by a succession of light and shadow, at times mysteriously shaded and occasionally brilliantly bright yet consistently engaging. For the museum employees, a south facing, naturally lit interior garden is shared by the office and research programmes of the museum, creating a natural work environment.

To view more of MAD Architects work, visit their website