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Yunnan Museum, China: Paying Homage to Historical and Geological Heritage

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on September 01, 2015 at 03:58 PM

The North Eastern Chinese province of Yunnan is a famed tourist destination, the two most popular attractions being the 198,000 piece collection of historical and archaeological artefacts dating from the Dian dynasty housed in the Yunnan Museum and the amazing, naturally occurring stone forests of the region having fantastic stone formations resulting from some millennia of geological changes, often deemed as the first wonder of the world. When the architectural design firm Rocco was called upon by the provincial museum authorities to design a new facility to relocate the museum on a 10 hectare site in Kunming's Guandu District, they decided to merge these two fascinating facets of Yunnan in their proposal as an attempt to create a holistic showcase of the rich and varied heritage of the province.

© Courtesy of Internet Resources

The conceptual form of the new museum building is generated from the visual structure of the aforementioned stone forests, resulting in a cube of faceted, rocky appearance. This external facade is made of perforated screens of a bronze hue clad on to a steel and glass structure within. These screens have been arranged to so as to create ‘negative cuts’ and ‘positive fins’ on the surface to give a faceted, rocky appearance. 

Hardly any large openings or voids can be seen on the facade, and the entrance to the museum is through a narrow opening. The idea is to create a feeling of discovering a long lost world upon breaking through into an impenetrable rocky cave. The boxy external facade is also meant to be a metaphorical representative of a stack of old boxes that hold within them precious and invaluable treasures waiting to be discovered.

But, as one passes through this narrow door, contrary to the boxy external perception, one enters a light drenched, lustrously finished, spacious interior, embellished with the precious artefacts on display within. Daylight filters in through the perforated screens of the facade, and in through the glass walls enveloping the spaces, climatically justifying the double facade. This is supplemented by sunlight pouring in through open to sky courtyards provided internally. This arrangement takes advantage of the pleasant climate of the Yunnan plateau, replacing a considerable amount of artificial lighting and cooling requirement with its natural counterpart. Photovoltaic panels have also been installed to supplement this reduction in energy consumption for lighting and cooling needs.

The museum building, standing at a modest height of 34.2 m, covers a floor area of approximately 60,000 sq m. The two floors below ground house the services and support systems, while the five floors above the ground are available for displaying the vast collection.

The architecture of the new Yunnan museum definitely cannot be ignored by passersby, the apparent bronze rocky plateau standing out against the featureless urban landscape of repetitive buildings around its site. Appearing to some detractors as nothing more than a rusty old shed, it still perfectly accomplishes what it set out to be – an ancient, forgotten world, or a line up of old boxes bearing precious treasures in its womb.

Designer : Rocco Design Architects
Photography :Internet Sources

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