As the most integrally preserved canal-town in Shanghai, Zhujiajiao attracts an increasing number of visitors every year with its authentic tradition of eastern China. The site, located at the entry of the old town, faces a 470-year-old gingko tree. This 1,800 sqm museum will house paintings and other art works related to the history of Zhujiajiao.
Our design approach is to delineate an art-visit experience that is rooted in Zhujiajiao. The architecture will be the carrier of this experience.
In the spatial allocation, the central atrium becomes the heart of the circulation. On the ground floor, the atrium brings natural light into the surrounding galleries through carefully positioned openings. On the second floor, a corridor around the outskirt of the atrium links several dispersed 'small-house' galleries and courtyards, which absorb surrounding sceneries and provide diverse spaces for small exhibitions and events. This alternate building-courtyard layout makes a clear reference to the figure-ground texture of the old town, and orientates the visitors to wander between art works and real sceneries with an experience of intimate interactions between matter and thought. A reflecting pool, laid in the east courtyard on the second floor, accomplishes an ultimate collection by borrowing the reflection of the gingko into the museum.
In the earlier scheme, we had a basement gallery in the museum. Although the 10+meter setback met the historic tree reservation code from the basement to the root periphery of the gingko, the client and us finally decided to cancel the whole basement, in order to protect the gingko in a more prudent way of keeping its root nutrition paths from being influenced by the construction. We then did a thorough revision on reorganizing the interior spaces.
The gingko lives well since the museum opened. A new relation also starts between the tree and human. From now on, their dialogues not only happen in the former noisy ground, but also expand to the teahouse, the water courtyard and the terraces of the museum. These new experiences with calmness and intimacy are expected to re-awake a harmonious co-existence between human and nature with mutual respect and love.