When designing the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art Dune Art Museum in Qinhuangdao, China, OPEN Architecture took inspiration from the sandy surroundings. The building, set on Bohai Bay and nestled beneath the beach’s scrub-topped dunes, seems to disappear into the coastline. Visitors enter through a long tunnel to reach the eight cavelike gallery spaces, which are lit by skylights of various sizes and orientations. The building also contains a reception area, community room, and café. Guests can reach a lookout point by climbing a spiral staircase, and can take in ocean views from the roof terrace and outdoor exhibition areas.
An aerial view shows how much of the museum is actually built into the dunes.
Situating the structure beneath the dunes has a number of benefits. The design preserves the natural dunes and the sand-covered roof helps insulate the interior and keep it cooler in the summer. Skylights provide most of the light, and the firm installed a zero-emission ground source heat pump instead of traditional air conditioning.
Visitors are afforded views of the pristine dunes and ocean, views which nearby developments are jeopardizing for the public.
The building’s concrete shell was constructed by local workers, some of whom once worked as shipbuilders. They used a formwork made of strips of wood and other materials to shape the shell. To give the walls texture, the architects left the irregularities created by the formwork, which serve as a reminder of the manual construction.
Even the stairwell within the structure has the feel that it was sculpted by sand.
OPEN added custom details throughout the building, from the doors and windows to the bathroom sinks. The café’s eight tables were designed by the firm; each is shaped like one of the gallery spaces.
Every part of the museum, including walkways outside of the structure, are meant to enjoy the surrounding nature.
The Dune Museum will soon be joined by the UCCA Sea Art Museum, which will resemble a rock emerging from the sea. The museum, also designed by OPEN Architecture, will be connected to the Dune Art Museum by an open walkway accessible only during low tide.