The city of Harbin in northeastern China is called “Ice City” because of its long and bitterly cold winters. The China Wood Sculpture Museum,…
…completed this year, could be an immense landmark for it.
The architects of MAD from Beijing were inspired by Harbin’s surrounding, mostly wintry natural landscape, when they designed the China Wood Sculpture Museum. The result is a sculpture museum which is in itself, in its shape of frozen fluid, like its contained exhibits, an effigy and abstraction of something else.
The museum is situated in a densely populated neighbourhood, characterized by multi-storey residential complexes. With its196 metres long and 21 metres high extravagant appearance, it is an anomaly in this environment. The latter is being reflected in the building by means of polished steel plates. Thus, this colossal foreign body breaks out of the residential complex wasteland, but interacts with it at the same time by holding a mirror up to it.
In the interior of the almost 13.000 m² large museum, two separate exhibitions are connected by a centralized entrance area. Spacious glazed skylights and windows interrupt the steel façade and provide all three halls with sufficient natural diffused illumination. The solid walls ensure minimal heat loss. Besides wood sculptures made by Chinese Artists, the China Wood Sculpture Museum also exhibits paintings depicting the ice and snow of the regional scenery.
By its shape, the museum is an abstraction of the natural landscape that surrounds the city, but, at the same time, it is also a mirror of its urban environment. A foreign body referring to the familiar. And, while doing so, this gigantic embodiment of frozen fluid also houses sculptures and paintings, which are again effigies and abstractions of equally natural and cultural manifestations. Furthermore, every winter, the Ice and Snow Festival as well as the Ice-Lantern Festival take place in Harbin. On these occasions, ice and snow sculptures, sometimes several metres high, are exhibited throughout the city. Could it be that the China Wood Sculpture Museum is also referring to this custom by its shape? Even if not, it can still be justifiably called not only a mirroring, but also “highly reflective” building.