Four Overlapping Pyramids Characterise Datong Art Museum Designed by Foster + Partners | China


After a lengthy design and build process of almost a decade, Datong Art Museum’ conceptualized by Foster + Partners finally opens its doors to the public. The building’s sculptural form has been conceived as a landscaped terrain with a series of interlocked pyramids emerging from below the earth – the gallery spaces are sunken below ground and surrounded by landscaped plazas. The museum is set to become a new and dynamic cultural destination in China for creative industries in the area. It encompasses various spaces dedicated to education and learning, including a media library, children’s gallery, archive and art storage facilities. Read more about the project below at SURFACES REPORTER (SR):

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“The museum is conceived as a social hub for people – an 'urban living room' for Datong – that brings people, art and artists together in a space where they can interact. At the heart of the museum, the Grand Gallery exemplifies this spirit with a generously scaled, flexible exhibition space designed to accommodate specially commissioned large-scale artworks as well as performance art and other events,” said Luke Fox, Head of Studio, Foster + Partners

Grand Gallery- Social Heart of the Museum

Strong diagonal paths in the landscaping direct the visitors towards the museum.

datong-art-museum-fosters-plus-partners-surfaces-reporterA meandering sequence of ramps in the entrance lead down people into an open sunken plaza - acting as an amphitheater for outdoor performances.

datong-art-museum-fosters-plus-partners-surfaces-reporterEntering the building, visitors arrive at a mezzanine level that reveals a spectacular overview of the Grand Gallery, the social heart of the museum, which measures 37 metres in height and spans almost eighty metres. 


State-of-The-Art Climate Controlled Exhibition Spaces 

The perimeter of the museum comprises climate-controlled exhibition spaces that are positioned on a single level, allowing for ease of access. The key design element of the building is the focus on education and learning with a dedicated children’s gallery, filled with sunlight from tall, south-facing windows.

datong-art-museum-fosters-plus-partners-surfaces-reporterA smaller education centre and a media library complement the education programme and there are facilities to support artists residencies, talks and conferences.

Curved Steel Plates Form Four Interlocking Roof Pyramids

The four interconnected roof pyramids increase in height and fan outwards towards the four corners of the cultural plaza. Natural light streams into the interior through roof lights, located at the apex of each pyramid. 

datong-art-museum-fosters-plus-partners-surfaces-reporterThe design of the roof is a direct response to the large structural span of the building and the desire to create a vast, flexible column-free volume below while mediating the smaller gallery spaces towards the edges. 

The roof is clad in naturally oxidised curved steel plates that help drain water and give a rich, three-dimensional quality to the surface. The panels are proportioned to suit the large scale of the museum and their linear arrangement accentuates the pyramidal roof form.

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datong-art-museum-fosters-plus-partners-surfaces-reporterBy sinking the building into the new plaza, the design relates in scale to the neighbouring cultural buildings, balancing the overall composition of the district master plan while maximising the internal volume. 

A clerestory between each volume creates a naturally lit interior during the day, while creating a unique beacon for the new cultural quarter at night.

Efficient Passive Design Responds to Datong’s climate. 

High-level skylights take advantage of the building’s north and north-west orientation, using natural light to aid orientation while minimising solar gain and ensuring the optimum environment for the works of art.

datong-art-museum-fosters-plus-partners-surfaces-reporterSinking the building into the ground along with a high-performance enclosure further reduces energy needs. The roof is mostly solid and is insulated to twice the building code requirements.

“Designed for the future, we hope the museum will become the centre of the city’s cultural life – a dynamic public destination,” added Fox.

Project Details

Appointment: 2011
Completion: 2021
Area: 32,238m²
Client: Datong Municipal Administration of Culture Broadcasting Television Press & Publication 
Museography and Exhibition design: Lord Cultural Resources
Collaborating Architect: China Architecture Design & Research Group
Structural Engineer: China Architecture Design and Research Group
Quantity Surveyor: China Architecture Design and Research Group
Landscape Architect: AECOM
Lighting Engineer: Claude Engle Lighting, Tsinghua University

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