Kengo Kuma adds folk art galleries to China Academy of Arts

Thousands of curved tiles cover the gabled roofs of the China Academy of Arts’ new folk art galleries, designed by Japanese firm Kengo Kuma & Associates to resemble a small village (+ slideshow).


The Folk Art Museum stands in a former tea plantation on the China Academy of Arts campus in Hangzhou, a city located on the east coast of China.

To help integrate the 5,000 square meter building into the sloping terrain, Kengo Kuma’s workshop fragmented the museum into separate units that gradually progress to the wooded hilltop.

China Academy Arts by Kengo Kuma and photographed by Eiichi Kano

Each section of the building is designed to look like a small house with its own pitched roof. These are all covered in rows of gray tiles, giving the museum a zigzag roofline.

This form, combined with the use of abandoned tiles in local dwellings, allows the gallery to blend into both its rural and urban surroundings.

China Academy Arts by Kengo Kuma and photographed by Eiichi Kano

“Planning is based on the geometric division of units of a parallelogram, to deal with the complex topography,” the company explained. “Each unit has a small individual roof, so the perspective has become like a village that evokes a view of extending roofs.”

China Academy Arts by Kengo Kuma and photographed by Eiichi Kano

Stainless steel wires are stretched over the glass facades of the museum, resembling a fishnet.

Additional roof tiles stuck in the diamond-shaped spaces of the mesh cast shadow patterns inside the building. A similar technique was used by the company in the design of the Xinjin Zhi Museum, whose facade is veiled in rows of floating tiles.

China Academy Arts by Kengo Kuma and photographed by Eiichi Kano

“The old tiles for the screen and the roof came from local homes,” the studio explained. “Their sizes are all different, and that helps the architecture blend naturally into the ground.”

China Academy Arts by Kengo Kuma and photographed by Eiichi Kano

“The exterior wall is covered with a tile screen suspended by stainless steel wires, and it controls the volume of sunlight entering the rooms inside,” they added.

China Academy Arts by Kengo Kuma and photographed by Eiichi Kano

The staircase form of the building results in a series of two-tiered galleries, which are connected by ramps lined with wood and stone with latticework balustrades.

“Our goal was to design a museum from which the ground below can be felt, continuing the floors of the building that follow the ups and downs of the slope,” the firm added.

China Academy Arts by Kengo Kuma and photographed by Eiichi Kano

Kuma previously used ramps to create miniature hilly terrain at a nursery in Towada, Japan. The firm is also currently working on the design of a new Paris metro station and twisted floor plate tower for Rolex in Dallas.

The photography is by Eiichi Kano.


Project credits:

Design: Kengo Kuma & Associates
Structural Design: Konishi Structural Engineers
Facility Design: PT Morimura & Associates

Mildred D. Field