Simple, pure, and touching, the UCCA Dune Art Museum is a fascinating network of subterranean concrete galleries carved into the sand of a quiet beach along the coast of northern China’s Bohai Bay in Qinhuangdao. Designed by Beijing–based OPEN Architecture, the 10,000-square-foot space is programed and operated by the country's leading independent institution of contemporary art, the UCCA Foundation.
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Inspired by the way sand dunes are organically created by countless years of wind, the architects proposed to create a museum underneath the sand that would protect both the land and the vulnerable coastal ecosystem.
"Because of the museum, these sand dunes will be preserved instead of leveled to make space for ocean-view real estate developments, as has happened to many other dunes along the shore," explains the firm.
Gently carved into the sand, the structure contains a series of cavernous rooms, including 10 galleries of different shapes and sizes, a cafe, and a space for reading. Skylights above silently yet powerfully fill the museum with natural light.
Openings of various sizes allow museumgoers to intimately connect with nature, while also observing and contemplating the ever-changing expressions of the sky and sea throughout the day.
Sustainability was another key aspect in the design. "The building’s many skylights, each with a different orientation and size, provide natural lighting for the museum’s spaces at all times of the year; its sand-covered roof greatly reduces the building’s summer heat load; and a low-energy, zero-emission ground-source heat pump system replaces traditional air conditioning," states the firm.
Recently recognized as the best building under 1,000 square meters by the 2019 AZ Awards, the UCCA Dune Art Museum will soon be expanded to include a long walkway that extends into the ocean. This path will allow guests to visit another smaller art gallery, also to be designed by OPEN, which will be partially submerged by water and only accessible during low tide.