GreenbergFarrow, a global architecture, engineering, planning and development services firm, won a global competition to design the Wuhan Metro Museum located in Wuhan, China—the most populous city in central China that serves as the capital of the Hubei province. GreenbergFarrow’s proposal beat out five other international and local design organizations, with its winning combination of innovative design features integrated into an economically sound business model for the museum.
The project site consists of two 100-year-old German warehouses that will be conjoined to create the 150,000-square-foot museum; 75,000 square feet of the site will be for the Metro Museum, while 64,000 square feet will be for commercial use including restaurants, a café and gift shop. The museum is a key part of the area’s broader redevelopment of Wuhan’s historical concession district of Hankou, where two office towers are under development next to the site.
“Our vision was to seamlessly integrate art and commercial space to activate and engage the people of the city, as well as local businesses and organizations,” said James Lew, Architecture Design Director of GreenbergFarrow’s Shanghai office.
In collaboration with museum researcher Jonathan Hale, a professor at the University of Nottingham, GreenbergFarrow analyzed a series of museum circulations to manifest a clear and concise space layout and circulation direction of flow that will stimulate and excite a sense of discovery, while also feeling natural and logical for visitors to follow. Wei Chen, a structural engineer consultant with Schlaich Bergermann Partner, worked closely with the team as well.
“As architects, we were excited by the challenge to create a unique space that takes the common daily occurrence of subway travel and elevates it into works of art that celebrate how a city works,” said Scott Loikits, Principal and Global Design Director for GreenbergFarrow.
Visitors are taken on an immersive journey as they enter the museum. One of the entrances lies inside the Line 7 Metro Station underground. Grand escalators will bring visitors all the way to the top of the four-level museum, giving them an opportunity to view the beauty of each floor through incased glass as they ascend. A tunnel-boring machine (TBM), used to excavate metro tunnels, serves as the museum’s focal point; it extends two floors and is visible through the floor-to-ceiling windows outside of the building. A circular ramp surrounds the TBM, giving visitors an up-close experience with its various parts.
The Visitor’s Center sits at the museum’s top level. Visitors can view the museum’s cabinet of curiosities (or small collections of objects) as they descend an atria spiral staircase from the fourth level to the ground level. Restaurants and a sculpture garden create areas for socializing on the ground level. An auditorium with the flexibility to isolate internal parts of the museum, or expand for big events, is also located on the ground level.
“Our goal was to optimize the space to function as both a place of curiosity and socialization, with multiple revenue streams for the museum. Generating revenue beyond the admission fee is critical to the fiscal health of museums today,” said Rodney Abney, Principal of GreenbergFarrow.
Several Metro Museums have emerged across China in recent years; this will be the largest and most comprehensive to date. The museum is a philanthropic collaboration between Wuhan Metro Group and the Chinese government to create a cultural building. The project is expected to cost $40.8 million and is scheduled to open in September 2019.