Dowry Museum Shi Li Hong Zhuang | The Plan
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Dowry Museum Shi Li Hong Zhuang

a Laboratory on Spaces and Materials

Amateur Architecture

After six years of preparation and construction, the Shi Li Hong Zhuang Museum in Ninghai finally opened to the public in 2018. Wang Shu had started the conceptual design right after the completion of the Ningbo Museum, and in the interim other works were built, such as the Fuyang Cultural Complex (THE PLAN 104) and Lin’an History Museum. That might well be the reason why the Shi Li Hong Zhuang Museum is one of his most special works, the continuation and transformation of a style he had begun to experiment with and which has led to a new spatial vocabulary. Wang Shu is one of the very few architects in China to have created his own unique space, form, and use of materials. His practice includes large-scale works such as the Xiangshan Campus of the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou, and small-scale works like the Five Scattered Houses in Ningbo. The simple distinctive designs of his single buildings have developed gradually into the intricate overlapping forms of the Shi Li Hong Zhuang Museum and a new concept of spatial organization. This evolution might well derive from the architect taking into account the whole context and environment of the cultural park. In fact, the conceptual design, described as “floating in nature”, blends seamlessly with the geographic features of the nearby hills. Another spatial inspiration informing the museum is its close relationship with marriage customs and traditions, the over-layered courtyards and deep paths as a metaphor for the winding path covered on the day of marriage by a group of guests carrying the dowry through hills, water courses and villages. The building plan is basically a series of rectangular rooms, courtyards, and vertical and horizontal corridors. No rectangular space seems directly adjacent to another but separated by layered corridors, giving the building the appearance of a labyrinth. Wang Shu once mentioned to me that he was obsessed with the complexity of the architecture and urban community of Hadrian’s...

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