Chengdu Museum

Sutherland Hussey Harris and Pansolution International, Chengdu, 2016


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The client’s focus was visual impact and the creation of a landmark 

Arch-Exist photography     Download Original

  • The client’s focus was visual impact and the creation of a landmark    
  • The alloy mesh references a gold mask that is one of the museum    
  • Interior spaces are orthodoxly planned and overtly generous    
  • The museum houses local artefacts and the city’s historical collections    
  • There is an interplay of light, shade and texture    
  • Chengdu welcomes international architects to advance the city’s modern look, but foreign architects must team up with local practices to comply with statutory requirements    
  •  The building was designed as a hybrid structural system of steel grids and reinforced concrete    
  • Steel grids form the envelope    
  • The singular facade helps to create a cohesive edge to an otherwise disjointed public square    
  • Aerial plan    
  • Site plan    
  • Floor plan    
  • Ground floor plan    
  • Third floor plan    
  • Fourth floor plan    
  • Section AA    
  • Section BB    
  • Exploded axonometric    
  • Folding skin concept development diagrams    

Working with local partner Pansolution International, Sutherland Hussey Harris has created a gateway to the Chinese city of Chengdu.

SHH (then called Sutherland Hussey Architects) won the Chengdu Museum design competition with Pansolution, a young Chinese practice. The size of the museum holds symbolic value (the original brief was for 80,000m2), reflecting the city’s ambitions to build at a grand scale. The brief had no clear programme requirements; the client’s focus was visual impact and the creation of a landmark.  

In Chinese culture, the symbolic holds value not through literal visual representation but, as in the art of calligraphy, through more abstract and spiritual connections. A client is likely to give higher priority to the symbolic value of a building than to its programme. SHH’s response to this challenge was to introduce into the design a mask or veil, a translucent alloy mesh, as a reference to one of the museum’s most important local artefacts, a gold mask. The building’s ‘golden mask’ (in fact brass) wraps around the body of the museum and continues over the roof. 

The long narrow site is exploited using all the public areas to maximise a dramatic relationship with the new square. The remaining façades consequently enclose the largely hermetic exhibition halls; these are represented as a giant crafted artefact in the city cloaked in a precious skin of copper alloy rigorously profiled to play with light, shade and texture while accommodating all the technical requirements for ventilation grilles.  The form envelopes a new undercover outdoor public space – a monu­mental gateway through the building, offering a large outdoor public space.


  • Begun: Dec 2009
  • Completed: Mar 2016
  • Floor area: 65,000m2
  • Sector: Arts and culture
  • Total cost: £120M
  • Procurement: Engineering Survey, Architectural Design and Special Design
  • Address: 18 Shi'erqiao Road, CaoTang CanYin YuLeQuan, Qingyang Qu, Chengdu, 610072, United Kingdom

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