The Wood Sculpture Museum designed by MAD in Harbin, China is a 196 metre-long building entirely covered with glossy steel that twists over on itself.
It is a structure with a bold volumetric personality inspired by trees that reveal and release all their natural energy as they grow to sprout branches and leaves. The architects of MAD interpret this expression of nature in contemporary architecture in the best possible way. They do not use wood, the material characterising the sculptures the museum contains, but make the entire building out of steel in strong contrast with the artworks it contains.
In the museum’s layout, almost two hundred metres of length are broken up by a central body containing the staircase, a compositional expedient that allows the volume to twist over on itself. These volumetric acrobatics make the whole building into an open-air sculpture of vast size, contrasting with the densely packed residential buildings typical of the People’s Republic of China.
Changes in the building’s surface, along with the interwoven directional lines of the project, allow the architects to open skylights and windows as if they were occasional episodes, contrasting with the rhythm of the façade, punctuated by glossy steel elements laid with “near-vertical” or “slightly oblique” seams: lines that do not underline the volume’s muscular shape but give it a horizontal orientation. In the same way, the intelligent stepped arrangement of the individual panels makes the building’s outer surface look like the bark of a tree, obliging the observer to follow not only the building’s sculptural outline but the more refined compositional forms of its façades. In this way MAD manages to establish a dialogue between volume and design that never tires the observer.
China Wood Sculpture Museum
Location: Harbin, China
Site Area: 9,788 m2
Building Area: 12,959 m2
Building Length: 196 m
Building Height: 21 m
Director in Charge: Ma Yansong, Dang Qun
Design Team: Yu Kui, Daniel Gillen, Bas van Wylick, Diego Perez, Jordan Kanter, Liu Huiying, Huang Wei, Julian Sattler, Liu Weiwei, Tang Liu, Mao Peihong, Maria Alejandra Obregon, Nickolas Urano, Gus Chan, Shin Park, Alejandro Gonzalez
Associate Engineers: The Architectural Design and Research Institute of Harbin Institute of Technology
Curtain Wall Consultant: Inhabit Group
Panel Optimization: Gehry Technologies
Steel Structure Contractor: Zhejiang Jing Gong Steel Structure Co. Ltd.