Contemporary Chinese architecture. 5 Stunning Projects

Photo: FangFang Tian

Contemporary Chinese architecture in recent years has produced it’s fair share of unusual buildings and architecture, from the big underpants building to the giant teapot, and waterfalls built on the side of buildings, to giant rings and dunked doughnuts.

Chinese developers have over the years competed to build bigger and stranger looking buildings. However, among these architectural oddities, there are some beautifully designed buildings with stunning use of space, materials and imagination. We take a look at 5 buildings best illustrating thoughtful Chinese contemporary architecture today.

Chinese Contemporary Architecture

Alila Yangshuo hotel 

We love the design, the building, the transformation. Opened in 2017, Alila Yangshuo’s stunning architecture is a cool mix of new and retro. The building is a transformed abandoned sugar mill that sits among towering limestone karst formations and overlooks the majestic River Li.

Photo: Shengliang Su
Photo: Hao Chen.

Designed by Vector Architects in Beijing, the hotel retains much of the old sugar mill and an industrial truss which provides the central part of the hotel complex. A sunken plaza and reflecting pond give guests a place to relax and reflect. A place to think about the old and the new. In this respect, the designers gave great thought to the materials used in the new build. Hollow concrete blockwork and wood formed cast in place concrete aim to complement the old structure rather than copy it. 

Photo: Shengliang Su

 Jishou Art Museum

Designed by Atelier FCJZ the Jishou Art Museum is an art museum built in the centre of old town Xiangxi in Western Hunan. This building embodies Chinese modern contemporary design and architecture.

Originally the local government had proposed using space outside of the city to build the museum but architects Atelier FCJZ wanted to build something more accessible to local residents. 

Photo: FangFang Tian
Photo: FangFang Tian

Spanning the river Wanrong, the museum acts as not just a cultural centre for the town but also a physical bridge allowing residents to cross the river which meanders through the city centre. 

Photo: FangFang Tian

The covered bridge is a nod to traditional Chinese mountain bridges, which were used as not just a crossing but as a public space where travellers could rest and local people could buy and sell. A modern interpretation of an old tradition Fengyu Qiao.

Aranya Art Center

Photo: Pedro Pegenaute

Designed by Neri and Hu, a design and research studio based in Shanghai. The Aranya Art Center draws inspiration from the sea. The building from the exterior appears like a firm unmovable multi faceted block. Using textured concretes and smooth surfaces to reflect the sky.

Photo: Pedro Pegenaute
Photo: Pedro Pegenaute

Bronze facades highlight the gallery entrances which begins a guided journey through the building which ends at the rooftop. In the centre of the building is its circular open space; space which can be reconfigured for a variety of uses, such as a gathering space for local residents, a water-filled feature or a performance space. 

Taizhou Contemporary Art Museum

Designed by Atelier Deshaus, Shanghai the Taizou Contemporary Art Museum is situated in a Soviet-style complex of warehouses and factories known as the Shamen Grain Depot Cultural and Creative Park. The museum is emblematic of a renewed interest in brutalist architecture. 

Contemporary Chinese Architecture
Photo: Tian Fangfang

The museum encompasses 2450 sqm of floor space which includes 8 different exhibition rooms spread over its 5 floors. Visitors are led through the space until they eventually arrive at the large exhibition space on the top floor, from which a terrace provides fantastic views of Mount Fengsham. 

Photo: Tian Fangfang
Photo: Tian Fangfang

Shui Cultural Center

This brutalist building was designed in 2017 by West Line Studio, based in Guiyang, Guizhou. 

The Shui Cultural Center is located in Guizhou, the gateway to Sandu province, this is the land of the Shui, an ethnic minority from the region. 

The Shui retain their own language and have their own unique system of pictographs. The main building of the Shui Cultural Center is an interpretation of their character for mountain. The facade also takes inspiration from the pictographic language with its repeating triangular architecture, reflecting the Shui character for rain.

Whilst there has been a propensity to build ever bigger and brasher buildings in China there remains a strong foundation of talented architects producing stunning thoughtfully designed buildings throughout the country. The future of contemporary architecture in China is bright.

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