The Pudong model of new urban development has had a significant impact on the rapid urbanization of China in the past 20 years, adopted and replicated in various ways over the entire country. As we stand at the beginning of what is arguably a new post-bubble economy era, looking back to the results of such rapid growth, new place-specific strategies are urgently needed to remedy and revive the urban condition. The Greater Lujiazui area especially, as the site of the Pudong Art Museum, is a compelling example. An intense concentration of visual stimuli results in a hyper post card of Pudong skyline built for admiration across the river from the Bund, yet when examined closely, a fragmented and alienating city is revealed.
However beneath the surface one discovers enormous potential. OPEN’s design started with an urban concept that proposes the use of natural landscapes to connect and consolidate the existing isolated parklands, cultural facilities, and riverbanks to create an enormous new looped park system. Within this connecting natural landscape, new cultural, leisure and entertainment programs are inserted to complement the existing key nodes. Within the Shanghai metropolis, this parkland will in itself become a new cultural destination, and at the same time it will become an integral part of the lives of those who live and work around the Greater Lujiazui region.
The Pudong Art Museum is sited precisely at the critical junction within this new super looped parkway, together with the adjacent landscaped area to the east, it connects the Oriental Pearl Parklands with the Riverside. The existing eastern landscape is transformed into a sculpture garden and music park, as an extension of the art museum. The central plaza level of the Art Museum becomes a great urban stage set, with the Oriental Pearl Tower as its magnificent back drop.
Conceptually the Art Museum is a visual link between the Greater Lujiazui area of Pudong and the Bund area of Puxi. Yet distinct from vertical and formal tendencies of the surrounding buildings, the Art Museum is more horizontal and seeks to fit into its surroundings, its geometry derived from considerations including site setback and heights limits, relationship to the existing buildings and also allowances for urban underground traffic infrastructure. The minimalist geometry of the building sits like a diamond within Pudong’s urban horizon, its facets carved out and defined through urban forces. A completely open urban art plaza sits in the void space at the heart of the building. The upper and lower parts of the building act to create a unique frame through which to survey the Bund and the historical urban fabric of Shanghai.
The upper part of the building is the “Floating Gallery of Art”, containing an orthogonal gallery core in its center surrounded by more open and free gallery exhibition spaces. The arrangement is highly flexible and adaptable, and is able to accommodate a wide range of curatorial requirements. Precise and intentional openings on the external façade introduce selected moments from the surrounding urban landscape along the visitor’s route, uniquely melding together Art and Urban experience.
The base of the building may be described as the “Community Forum of Art”. Here Art and Culture become inseparable with urban life and cultural education. Urban street-like laneways bring together the “Black-box” Performance and Installation Gallery, “People’s Gallery”, Art Shop, Auditorium, Library and Workshop spaces.
The intriguing void that’s held in suspense in between these two parts of the building is the most special place in the museum, part urban living room and part outdoor exhibition plaza, visitors are positioned at the junction between the upper and lower parts of the gallery, between the two parklands East and West, and between an urban imagination past and future. In this space, an entirely new relationship is created between City, Art, Nature and People.