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New museum architecture: A year of impressive cultural buildings

Binhai library in Tianjin: Stacked architecture

A good book allows you to forget space and time. But the library in Tianjin in China doesn’t stop there: It embeds its literary collection in a surreal architectural environment, too. The cultural building allows glimpses of the shining white pearl in its interior before you even go in, through the characteristic “eye” in its glass façade.

Then, once inside, a huge sphere in the centre of the atrium draws visitors attention with its shimmering surface.

It determines the contours of the curved book storing areas that are stacked on the wall like terraces, and grow together up to the ceiling. Above the sphere, the shelves of the five-storey building open up a light shaft. This futuristic book repository, covering a total space of 33,700 square metres and holding around 1.2 million works of literature, was designed by Dutch architects MVRDV.

Source: Science and more/ YouTube

Zeitz MoCAA in Cape Town: A new platform for African art

Once upon a time, this building was the tallest grain silo in South Africa. Today, the building in Cape Town houses contemporary works by artists from all over South Africa. With 6,000 square metres of exhibition space, the Zeitz MoCAA is the largest cultural building on the African continent and is pushing South Africa’s lively art scene back into the international spotlight.

The design of the new museum architecture in the revamped harbour quarter is from the Heatherwick Studio – and thus is the brainchild of British star architect, Thomas Heatherwick.

Inspired by the building’s original function, the architects designed the museum like a giant grain kernel. During extensive renovations, parts of the 27-metre-high concrete blocks were hollowed out into a large atrium, and the "porous" inner walls strengthened with reinforced concrete. From this central hollow body, you can reach the 80 gallery rooms that continue to the roof terrace. Here, the concrete walls are pierced by a rectangular framework, whose prismatic glass openings underscore the contrasting feel of rough and polished materials.

Source: VernissageTV/ YouTube

Louvre Abu Dhabi: Honourable namesake of the famous museum

It looks like a steel UFO wants to land in front of the United Arab Emirates: The fact that the silver dome of the Louvre Abu Dhabi “floats” over Saadiyat Island is a static masterpiece, as only four pillars carry the 7,500-tonne structure. When designing this voluminous yet apparently weightless museum, the French design icon, Jean Nouvel, made good use of some defining elements in Arabic architecture.

The nine overlapping aluminium and steel layers of the porous roof dome branch off into geometrical patterns, forming a total of 7,850 stars on a surface with a 180 metre diameter. Their recesses cast sophisticated shadows onto the walls of the museum depending on the sunlight. Since November 2017, the futuristic temple of culture, with its 55 white cuboids that form a type of miniature city of alleys and squares, has been home to many international works of art.

King Abdulaziz Center in Saudi Arabia: World culture in the desert

Right in the middle of the desolate steppes in the eastern provincial region of Saudi Arabia, an iconic lighthouse is currently towering upwards on the horizon. As if mother nature had wished to create a sophisticated monument, the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture is made up of four polished “boulders” piled up in the centre of an elliptical, sculpted landscape. Supported by three above-ground elements, the largest monolith rises vertically, and forms the centre of the new cultural building, both visually and functionally.
The gigantic palace covers approximately 100,000 square metres, and will house a library, a cinema, a museum, and an auditorium for events such as symphony concerts.

The project was initiated by the Saudi Aramco Oil Company with the intention of creating a platform for cultural development in the kingdom. In 2007, the Norwegian architectural firm Snøhetta won the tender for the design. In May 2008, King Abdullah laid the foundation stone. The opening was meant to take place at the end of 2017 but has been delayed until next year.

Source: King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture/ YouTube

Riba North: New museum design for historical architecture

In June 2017, the Royal Institute of British Architects opened the Riba North, its first architecture centre outside of London. The Broadway Malyan studio designed a modern facility on the Liverpool waterfront as a place where people can meet and gain inspiration. On the shores of Mann Island, the distinctive cultural building reflects Liverpool’s “architectural audacity”. And behind its dark glass façade, there is certainly enough evidence of this.

The exhibition areas are located in two asymmetrical building blocks, which visitors reach via the glass conservatory.

On the ground floor, the atrium has a small cafe and a shop, while the top floors are reserved for the city’s architectural heritage. As well as guided tours and galleries with drawings, models and photographs, the modern cultural building also regularly holds public events like workshops and lectures.

Whether in the desert, by the water, or in the middle of the city: Impressive cultural buildings and famous museums around the world exemplify the art of contemporary construction and design. In this way, new museum architecture does not only create the right setting for historical masterpieces but makes its own cultural contribution.

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Which famous museums and cultural buildings especially impress you with their design? We would love to hear your comments.

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