national maritime museum of china

project info

name: national maritime museum of china
location: tianjin, china
project size: 80,000 sqm
site size: 150,000 sqm
completion date: 2019
building levels: 3

after six years of planning, design, and construction, china’s first national maritime museum is now open in the city of tianjin. designed by australian firm COX architecture, the museum has a distinctive form which reaches out into the bay from a large waterfront parkland. the three-storey complex comprises four wings, each dedicated to a different aquatic theme: the ancient ocean; ocean today; journey of discovery; and the age of the dragon. in total the building contains six display areas and 15 interconnected exhibition halls

COX architecture was awarded the project in 2013 after winning an eight-month iterative design competition process involving multiple stages of client and stakeholder feedback. the realized building comprises a series of interconnected pavilions that cantilever out over the water in a ‘fan-like’ formation from a central reception hall. this central space is both for transition and exhibition and provides access to the upper of the two exhibition levels

the design evolved from a watercolor painting by philip cox, founding partner of COX architecture. ‘from philip cox’s initial watercolor sketches, the design evolved and certain compelling metaphors either resolved or emerged — jumping carp, corals, starfish, moored ships in port and an open palm reaching out from china to the maritime world,’ says the design team. ‘without resorting to literal mimicry, some are more obviously expressed, such as in the geometric pattern and textures of the cladding, also functionally designed to shed heavy snow loads during harsh winters typical in this part of china

during the project’s development, both physical and digital modelling was carried out to test the building structure and its detailing. ‘revit, rhino, and BIM played a huge role in coordinating and delivering this project,’ the architects explain. ‘it resulted in the biggest digital model we’ve ever worked with. the solution includes giant seismic portals, each resting on massive ball joints that are designed to move when there’s seismic disruption in the landscape.’ power for the building is predominantly sourced from the ground using geothermal energy

the national maritime museum of china is justified in its ‘landmark’ status. it is a remarkable building borne of a remarkable process,’ comments brendan gaffney, national director for COX. ‘it is a project that’s totally at home on the global stage. it is testament to the commitment of our open-minded and collaborative client and to our team, whose talent and tenacity in equal measure ensured this building stayed true to its vision in every possible detail.’ see other recently published architecture projects in china on designboom here


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