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Harmonious beauty of the architecture of Ningbo Museum
2018-12-16Text Size: A A A

"The architecture itself is a big treasure. With the numerable exhibits rich in cultural elements and signs of Ningbo, the exhibition halls enable visitors to traverse the sea of history and culture." said the curator of Ningbo Museum. The museum is just like an organism, which collects people's collective memory and nostalgic feelings through the buildings and exhibits the history and the new time. "The value of the museum lies not only in the collection of cultural relics but in the integration of history and reality for the visitors."

Ningbo Museum, designed by Wang Shu, was open to public on December 5, 2008. With his "new-ruralist" style, Wang Shu designed the architecture with the traditional architectural methods. When viewed from the top, the museum is just like a large ship, while viewed from the bottom, it is like a series of mountains. The traditional tile walls, the concrete walls, the main entrance with stone slabs, the man-made ponds, the reeds, the stone dam and the stretches of cobble beach, all reflect the long-lasting local culture and architectural concept both from the perspective of the modern environmental ecology and from the perspective of its application of the local construction materials. In other words, the museum is a kind of integration of tradition and modern architecture. In 2012, Wang Shu won the Pritzker Architecture Prize, becoming the first Chinese architect to win the prize.

"Wang Shu received the Pritzker Prize, the "Nobel Prize" of the architecture field, so Ningbo Museum, as one of his masterpieces, has attracted much overseas attention. As we have always said, ‘Only those with strong national characteristics can become international', we hope this architecture with strong Ningbo features can have a place in the world." said the curator. Over the past ten years, he has interpreted the harmonious beauty of the architecture for many times. "Based on its buildings, the museum can give full play to its social functions, and we should attach importance to the relationship between architecture and humanistic environment, between architecture and visitors, and between architecture and exhibitions."

In the curator's eyes, the local comprehensive museum is a window to exhibit the overall history and humanities of a place, and thus the architecture should reflect the local features. Ningbo is a city with a long history and a rich cultural tradition, with the watery landscapes featuring dams and channels, the ancient temples, and the traditional villages with special space forms, local residence and color texture. All those cultural images compose the collective cultural memory and local features of the Ningbo area. By adopting the essence of the local features, the architecture of Ningbo Museum has managed to integrate the cultural elements and the buildings.

"The architecture is of strong Ningbo features, in terms of nature, geography, culture and tradition. It is a beautiful success." The outer wall of the museum, built with old bricks and tiles, adopts a unique traditional architectural technology of the eastern Zhejiang area. The majority of the bricks and tiles, totally over six million in number, are black bricks from the Ming and Qing Dynasties or the Republic of China era, and some are even ancient bricks from the Han or Jin Dynasties. Some inscriptions can still be seen on some of the black bricks.

This kind of walls enable the museum architecture to have the function of collecting time. The color patterns and layout of the wall reflects the beauty of the design. Surprises can be found in different parts of the outer walls. For example, the dark red piles on the top side of the walls seem to capture the color of the sunset. The overall color and texture can naturally fuse with the surroundings, bringing about a beautiful scene of the riverside area of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River.

The beauty also lies in the innovative fair-faced concrete walls made of large stretches of bamboo models. The featured bamboo textures bring new changes of texture and regional characteristics to the rigid concrete, leading to a qualitative cultural change to the architectural form.

The curator said that one may have different feelings when faced with the architecture for such a long time. The architecture style, which has lasted for over 1,000 years in Ningbo, has its strong life and unique local cultural characteristics, is a carrier of the nostalgia and common cultural memory of people. "The museum not only displays history but collects time as a bridge to connect the past, the present and the future. We connect the history with the current life with the museum." said the curator.   

Over the past ten years since its opening, the museum has received over 10 million visits. People come to this public cultural space to relax, satisfy their needs for knowledge, appreciation of beauty and self-fulfillment, and seek for a new healthy and beneficial leisure living style. "Why are people so fond of Ningbo Museum? One reason is that the architecture itself is beautiful, and the other reason is that it reflects a kind of harmony between architectural space and man."

With the reasonable layout, scientific allocation of facilities and well-created atmosphere, Ningbo Museum provides the visitors with a fine visiting environment and a pleasant visiting feeling. The large terrace of the third floor, for example, has become a good place for relaxation for the visitors. The exhibition halls, terraces, as well as the open-air slopes, passages, glass roofs and green landscapes, create an atmosphere of historical and cultural blocks and garden architectures of Ningbo, making the museum a good venue for picture taking. Some small yards of the museum can also bring cool air to the visitors in summer. Such open spaces as the café, the children's playground, the mother-baby room, and the museum-themed post office have also attracted a lot of visitors.

Over the past decade, the museum, with the academic platform at the state level in the field of the marine silk-road research, has become one of the first-class museums in the country. It has also been entitled as "the most innovative museum of China" and now ranks No.1 in the "list for public service brands in Ningbo".

As the most important service to the society, the basic exhibition of the museum has the "marine silk-road" culture as its highlight. Based on the city's development history, the basic exhibition sorts and comprehensively displays the civilization, culture, history and region over the past 7,000 years in Ningbo. The theme exhibitions include the folk custom item exhibition and the bamboo carving art exhibition of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, with the former featuring the "red dowry", the time-honored brands, the seasonal customs and the intangible cultural heritage skills of Ningbo, and the latter exhibiting the exquisite craftsmanship of the bamboo carving masters during the Ming and Qing Dynasties and the literati's elegance. There are also over 140 special exhibitions, falling into the three series of "special exhibition of items from prominent museums home and abroad", "special exhibitions of well-known contemporary Ningbo artists or collectors from home and abroad" and "exhibitions of collections by private collectors in Ningbo".

According to the curator, through exhibitions, Ningbo Museum achieves the harmony between exhibition content and the architecture form, besides enhancing the museum's cultural image, cultural attraction and regional cultural influence, thus building it as an important platform for visitors to fully enjoy the treasures of the human civilization and the local cultural relics.

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