Jean Nouvel wins the National Art Museum of China

The French Pritzker laureate beat Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid to design China's leading art contemporary space
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Jean Nouvel's winning design for The National Art Museum of China
Jean Nouvel's winning design for The National Art Museum of China

Pity the poor architecture firm trying to get promoted into the premier league. The doors seem pretty much closed at the moment, particularly in the cultural sector. The battle to design Hong Kong's M+ Museum was fought between international heavyweights SANAA, Renzo Piano, Toyo Ito, Snohetta, Shigeru Ban and the eventual winners Herzog and de Meuron. Now it's been officially revealed that the French Pritzker Prize winner Jean Nouvel has beaten the equally prestigious practices of Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid to design the National Art Museum of China (Namoc).

 

Frank Ghery's design for The National Art Museum of China
Frank Ghery's design for The National Art Museum of China

The Beijing building - to be constructed in the old Olympic Park close to the Beijing National 'Birds Nest' Stadium - is as bold as it is big, and promises to become one of the world's most important art galleries. Nouvel's scheme can be read as a huge metaphor for Chinese art and calligraphy. The building's form has its roots in a single line or brush-stroke, we are told.

This is an apt place to start, given that it will display 20th century art and calligraphy from China and elsewhere. As Nouvel explained to The Financial Times: "We started with calligraphy. Pupils used to spend half a year just on that first line with a brush. That first line contains all of Chinese culture - painting, writing and the energy of Chi."

And while there's single-mindedness in its concept, the execution will have more going on; each façade is different, from perforated stone screens to patterned glass. Indeed, Namoc is intended to serve as a centrepiece for this new cultural district, to occupy the city's Olympic Park. What a fitting design for such an honour.

 

Jean Nouvel's winning designs for Jean The National Art Museum of China
Jean Nouvel's winning designs for Jean The National Art Museum of China

For more on this, see the FT article here. For greater insight into how we built today, take a look at our architecture books, including our Atlas of 21st Century World Architecture. For more on East Asian fine art, please take a look at The Chinese Art Book.


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