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Imperial Kiln Museum

A Timeless Monument

Zhu Pei

Imperial Kiln Museum
By Li Xiangning -

Located in the typical landscape of southern China full of water and mountains, the ancient town of Jingdezhen was for centuries the center of exquisite porcelain manufacturing; from the Song and Yuan era through to the Ming and Qing dynasties. Excavation works during the city’s urban development in the last 20 years brought to light many vestiges of this ancient tradition. Today, molds, glazes, varnishes and kiln firing are still part of people’s everyday life in Jingdezhen; a mind space as they think back to how they would occupy the abandoned kilns or keep warm sitting close to the hot kiln bricks. The craftsmen who built the last kilns by hand are still here, waiting to pass on their knowledge, even if there is little likelihood of this happening.

But the grand opening of the Jingdezhen Imperial Kiln Museum is a signal of hope. Designed by Studio Zhu-Pei and exhibiting the works of four famous Chinese art and architecture artists - including Zhu Pei himself -, the museum has allowed Jingdezhen to proudly reoccupy a seminal moment in Chinese artistic culture.

The outdoor model made of Jingdezhen’s unique “shadowy-blue” porcelain gives us a glimpse of the Imperial Kiln Museum: the building is first and foremost a spatial composition with a metaphorical color. The long arched forms typical of the Jingdezhen kiln are made up of interspersed red and shiny black kiln bricks that seem to be sweating from the fierce heat held within. The staggered geometric forms appear arranged randomly, a bit like an archaeological excavation site that reveals a medley of structures and artefacts from different eras. Placing part of the building underground and preserving original vestiges of the ceramic industry of the past gives the site a profound significance. The museum lies close to a gentle rise on which stands an imposing old house with white walls and gray tiles. This sharply contrasts with the nearby apartment blocks in a...

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