Inaugurated in 2018, the UCCA Dune Art Museum seamlessly blends into the tranquil beaches of northern China’s Bohai Bay. Masterminded by the Chinese architectural firm OPEN Architecture, this avant-garde museum is ingeniously carved into the existing natural dunes, appearing as though it gently fades into the landscape itself.
UCCA Dune Art Museum Technical Information
- Architects1-5: OPEN Architecture
- Location: Qinhuangdao, China
- Client: Aranya, UCCA
- Topics: Museums, Subterranean Architecture, Organic Architecture
- Area: 930 m2
- Project Year: 2015 – 2018
- Photographs: © WU Qingshan, © TIAN Fangfang, © NI Nan, © Zaiye Studio
The Dune Art Museum’s concrete shell’s complex three-dimensional geometry was shaped by hand by local workers in Qinhuangdao – some of whom were former shipbuilders – using formwork made from small strips of wood and occasionally, some more elastic materials when tighter curvatures were needed.– OPEN Architecture
UCCA Dune Art Museum Photographs
A Sublime Confluence of Art, Nature, and Architecture
On a quiet beach along the coast of northern China’s Bohai Bay, the UCCA Dune Art Museum is carved into the sand, where it gently disappears. Countless wind years have pushed the beach’s sand into a dune along the shore several meters high, stabilized by low-rising shrubs and other ground covers.
The museum lies beneath this dune. Enveloped by sand, its interconnected, organically shaped spaces resemble caves – the primeval home of man, whose walls were once a canvas for some of humanity’s earliest works of art. Hidden between the sea and the sand, the Dune Art Museum design is simple, pure, and touching—a return to primal and timeless forms of space.
The decision to create the art museum underneath the dunes surrounding it was born out of both the architects’ deep reverence for nature and their desire to protect the vulnerable dune ecosystem, formed by natural forces over thousands of years. Because of the museum, these dunes will be preserved instead of leveled to make space for ocean-view real estate developments, as has happened to many other dunes along the shore.
A series of cell-like contiguous spaces accommodate differently-sized galleries, a café, and some ancillary spaces. After passing through a long, dark tunnel and a small reception area, the space suddenly opens up as visitors enter the largest multifunctional gallery. There, a beam of daylight from the skylight above silently yet powerfully fills the space.
Looking through different openings framed by the building, museum-goers can observe the sky and sea’s ever-changing expressions throughout the day. A spiral staircase leads to a lookout on top of the dune, guiding curious audiences from the dark recesses below to the vast openness above. Underfoot, the museum emerges as a hidden shelter, intimate to the body and soul – a place to contemplate both nature and art thoughtfully.
The Dune Art Museum’s concrete shell’s complex three-dimensional geometry was shaped by hand by local workers in Qinhuangdao (some of whom were former shipbuilders), using formwork made from small strips of wood and occasionally, some more elastic materials when tighter curvatures were needed.
The architect deliberately retained the irregular and imperfect texture left by the formwork, allowing traces of the building’s manual construction to be felt and seen. In addition, the building’s doors and windows, reception desk, bar counter, and bathroom sinks are all custom-designed and made on-site. The eight tables in the café are also designed by the architect, each with a distinct shape matching the eight main gallery spaces’ floor plans.
The building’s many skylights, each with a different orientation and size, provide carefully tempered natural lighting for the museum’s spaces at all times of the year; its sand-covered roof greatly reduces the building’s summer heat load; and a low-energy, zero-emission ground source heat pump system replaces traditional air conditioning.
UCCA Dune Art Museum Plans
UCCA Dune Art Museum Image Gallery
About OPEN Architecture
OPEN was founded by LI Hu and HUANG Wenjing in New York City. It established its Beijing office in 2008. They are a passionate team of designers who believe in architecture’s innovative power to transform people and the way they live while striking a new balance between human-made and nature.
- Architects: OPEN Architecture
- Principals in Charge: LI Hu, HUANG Wenjing
- Project Team: ZHOU Tingting (Project Architect), WANG Mengmeng, HU Boji, FANG Kuanyin, Joshua PARKER, LU Di, LIN Bihong, YE Qing, Steven SHI, JIA Han
- Local Design Institute: CABR Technology Co., Ltd.
- Lighting Design: X Studio, School of Architecture, Tsinghua University, China + OPEN Architecture