The architecture of He Art Museum (HEM), totaling 16,000 square meters, is designed by architect Tadao Ando. The exhibition area of HEM is approximately 8,000 square meters. Ando’s design presents his signature with the use of slick concrete, while cooperating various natural elements including light, water and wind into the context of Lingnan Architectural Culture within the design.
The Architecural Concept and Cultural Context
The design of the building takes ‘harmony’ as the theme. From the architectural design to the very details, a variety of circles is presented. It attempts to create a new arts and cultural center infused with the Lingnan architectural culture. These circles constructed the space of the building through ripple-like expansion: from top to bottom, with the overlapping of four circles. With each area’s clear-cut periphery, an enriched variation effect is created through the interaction between spaces.
Anient Chinese cosmology and philosophy believed the sky was round and divine; the earth was flat and square – this has had a profound influence on ancient architectural theories and design, and it is still preserved by some of the architectures today in Lingnan region. To address these contradicting elements, the visual contrast between "round" and "square" emphasized in the museum creates a sense of conflict with spatial differences, which has given more characteristics to HEM.
Double-helix Slick Concrete Staircase
The double-helix staircase and the courtyard corresponds to the overlapping circles. This structure is called "variable truncated hyperboloid staircase" in architecture, commonly known as "DNA staircase". It creates a sense of temple when audiences look up to the roof in the central atrium with the natural light shining from the sky.
Ando’s architectural design challenges the “dynamic geometry”. This dynamic presents the rich layers of the spaces that can only be archive by the dual-spiral design, with different sizes of circles expanding to the outside, creating a sense of tension and rhythm. This design pursues a dynamic balance among the stable structure, which has become a highlight within HEM’s architecture.
Crescent Garden, the front courtyard that leads up to the museum entrance, is naed after its crescent-shape, surrounding the museum’s main building, which depicts an artistic conception of HEM: “the sky is round, the ground is square, and there were the sun, the moon, and the stars”. Water is used as the main attraction within the landscape of HEM, such as the pond, which also works as a cooling device during summer. The reflection of the building creates a beautiful illusion as if the basement of the building is elevated up to the sky.