Host partners? Opening of the Datong Art Museum


In the far north of the Chinese province of Shanxi, 20 km south of the Great Wall, is the city of Datong, an important destination to discover the history and culture of ancient China. The city has recently expanded its cultural offer with the opening of the new “Datong Art Museum“, designed by Foster + Partners in the contemporary part of town.
The museum is destined to become a new hub for the region’s creative industries and an important meeting place where people, artists and works of art come together. Luke Fox, Chief Foster + Partners, underlines that the new museum is designed as a new “urban living room” of the city in which the public will be able to interact with the artists. This will take place in the “Great Gallery“, the main exhibition space of the museum, designed to be large enough to accommodate large works of art commissioned specifically for the museum as well as artistic performances and other events.
Datong Art Museum is one of the four most important buildings in the cultural square of Datong New Town. Its sculptural form emerges from the ground and consists of a series of interconnected pyramids surrounded by landscaped plazas, while the underground part contains the exhibition spaces of the main gallery. The museum is complemented by a series of spaces dedicated to education and learning, including a children’s gallery, a media library, archives and art storage facilities.
A series of diagonal routes guide visitors through the site to an open plaza below. The ramps forming and delimiting the square make it an amphitheater to host outdoor shows. The entrance to the Grand Gallery, the main exhibition space and the true heart of the museum, is on the mezzanine level, offering visitors spectacular views of the 37-meter-high exhibition space.
The four pyramidal structures forming the roof of the building are interconnected and fan out to cover the site. This complex geometric shape was developed by the architects of Foster + Partners to create large free spans of vertical supports, providing flexible and configurable exhibition spaces as needed. A series of ribbon windows following the profile of each pyramid let in daylight to illuminate the spaces below. At night, light from inside the gallery is visible through these windows, making the museum a beacon and an easily recognizable landmark.

(Agnes Bifulco)

Images reproduced with the kind permission of Foster + Partners, photos by Yang Chaoying

Project name: Datong Art Museum
Location: Datong, China
Client Datong Municipal Administration of Culture
Date: 2010 (Appointment) – 2011 (Start date of construction) – 2021 (End of construction)

Architect: Foster + Partners
Foster + Partners design team
Norman Foster, David Nelson, Spencer de Grey, Luke Fox, Michael Gentz, Zheng Yu, Meng Xia, Loretta Law, Bartenis Siaulytis, Yasuko Tarumi, Ahmed Hosny, Mitsunori Sano, Pil-Joon Jeon, Yung Kim, Photos: Yang Chaoying
Collaborating architect: China Architecture Design and Research Group
Main contractor: China Railway Airport Construction Group Co., Ltd
Structural Engineer / Cost Consultant / Mechanical and Electrical Engineers: China Architecture Design and Research Group
Lighting consultant: Claude Engle, BPI+THU
Landscape consultant: AECOM
Museum Consultant: Lord

Site area: 51605 m²
Gross area: 32,000 m²
Building footprint: 13313 m²
Dimensions Height: 34 m / Width: 147 m / Length: 155 m
Height of the large gallery: 37.5 m

Photos: Yang Chaoying


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