China's caveman capital gets a new look

HASSELL Studios finds novel ways to display and preserve China's prehistoric heartland in Nanjing
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 The Fangshan Tangshan National Geopark by HASSELL. Image by Studio Odile Decq
The Fangshan Tangshan National Geopark by HASSELL. Image by Studio Odile Decq

HASSELL Studios is usually associated with good-quality office space, like the bright and highly functional Medibank workplace in Melbourne.

Yet 40km outside the Chinese city of Nanjing, the firm is working on the landscaping for a more ambitious park. The Fangshan Tangshan National Geopark is the gateway to a soon-to-be-completed Great Relic Museum by Studio Odile Decq in Paris. Both celebrate the fact that this was the site of one of the world's most important archaeological discoveries.

 

 The Fangshan Tangshan National Geopark by HASSELL.  Image by Studio Odile Decq
The Fangshan Tangshan National Geopark by HASSELL. Image by Studio Odile Decq

The 15-hectare park features the Hulu Caves, where homo erectus fossils dating back up to 0.60 million years were discovered in the 1990s.

The museum now has outside space worthy of its significance, in the form of a plaza that echoes the site’s contour lines. “Our response celebrates the plaza's gateway status, the museum's architectural form, and the geopark's many extraordinary features,” says Andrew Wilkinson, HASSELL's principal in China, “offering visitors an exploratory journey through the site that reveals its history and formation along the way.”

At the arrival plaza there is a “memory tower” where groups can meet before they make their way through the feature gardens.

Each garden refers to a different Paleozoic era, from rocks to wetlands to swamp forest. These ‘prehistoric’ pockets will be completed in 2016.

 

 The Fangshan Tangshan National Geopark by HASSELL.  Image by Studio Odile Decq
The Fangshan Tangshan National Geopark by HASSELL. Image by Studio Odile Decq

Meanwhile, the shape of the museum building also draws on its surroundings, and originates from the slope of the site, says Decq. “The continuity between the landscape and the museum creates a sequential museology space that runs through the many layers of the project,” she adds. What a distinctly modern way to accommodate the prehistoric world.

For more on equally brilliant architectural developments take a look at our new book, Architizer A+Awards 2015; for more on contemporary landscaping order 30:30 Landscape Architecture; and for more on Troglodyte creativity get Cave Art, our comprehensive, accessible guide to prehistoric art.


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