Imagine being asked to design a museum for a national treasury of wooden sculptures. Would you go for something that pays tribute to local craftsmanship and vernacular traditions? Maybe you’d even fashion something from timber?
Not if you’re MAD Architects founder Ma Yansong. Since its foundation in 2004, Yansong’s practice has grown into one of the world’s most exciting and audacious architecture firms in the world. At MAD, Yansong and his team fuse the organic with the futuristic, designing visually stunning buildings which at once blend with their surroundings while standing out from them.
Consider the China Wood Sculpture Museumin Harbin, China, which MAD completed in 2013, and which features in our new overview MAD Works. Drawing inspiration from the local environment, as well as its slightly restricted plot, the ergonomic, polished-steel building is one of East Asia’s finest examples of contemporary architecture.
It seems to slither across its slim site dynamically, as if carried by the momentum of its own creation. Its cladding reflects the immediate area, enabling it to blend despite the contrast it presents. Protruding skylights, meanwhile, are designed to draw in light from the low-hanging, wintry sun – Harbin is evidently not a destination for sun-worshippers.
The building’s function is to house a collection of traditional art, depicting the local climate and scenery. The structure itself, however, almost qualifies as sculpture in the statements that it makes, perhaps more radical than the pieces it houses.
For more on this building and many others order a copy of MAD Works here. With a foreword by Sir Peter Cook and an interview conducted by Aric Chen, Curator of Art and Design at M+ in Hong Kong, this book, like MAD’s work, is conspicuously outstanding.