Featuring four interconnected pyramidal roof peaks that appear to emerge from the earth below, the Datong Art Museum by Foster + Partners offers a new cultural destination for China and a new cultural hub for Datong region. In addition to its cultural program, the museum includes learning areas, a children’s gallery, a media library, an archive, and art storage facilities.
Visitors are guided to the museum’s entrance by diagonal paths cut into the landscape. Winding ramps then lead down to a sunken plaza, which doubles as an amphitheatre for outdoor performances. Visitors enter the building via a mezzanine level, which overlooks the Grand Gallery. Serving as the social heart of the museum, the Gallery measures an impressive 37-meters in height and spans almost eighty meters. Exhibition spaces featuring state-of-the-art climate controls are positioned around the perimeter of the museum.
Central to the museum’s philosophy is a focus on education and learning. This is translated into a dedicated children’s gallery, filled with sunlight from tall, south-facing windows. A smaller education centre and media library complement the education programme along with facilities to support artists’ residences, talks and conferences.
The roof design comes in response to the large structural span of the building and the desire to have open, column-free gallery spaces. Clad with oxidized curved steel plates that help to drain water, the roof also features linear openings that follow the dynamic pyramidal shapes, allowing natural light to enter the interior. Skylights within the high ceilings bring in northern and north-western daylight, which helps in providing an optimal environment for the display of artworks while minimizing solar gain.
Sinking the building into the ground along with a high-performance enclosure further reduces energy needs. The roof is insulated to twice the building code requirement.