The 32,000-square-metres art museum designed by Foster + Partners in Datong, northern China, is part of a new cultural city district, where there are three other major buildings designed as a creative hub for the whole region.
The project feature a series of four interconnected pyramids, which evokes the rocky peaks emerging in the area landscape. Foster + Partners chose to partly embed the museum within the ground in order to reduce – at least in appearance – its scale. At the same time, the building's large structural span, which shapes the pyramidal roofscape, ensures flexible and column-free exhibition spaces. The roofscape is clad in weathering-steel plates and between each peak there is a clerestory window that takes light inside the subterranean galleries during the day and illuminates the surrounding plaza at night.
The visitors are greeted by a mezzanine level that overlooks a 37-metre-high space with a span of 80 metres, the Grand Gallery, which is used to exhibit large-scale artworks and host performances and events. Surrounding the Grand Gallery there are smaller exhibition spaces, alongside a media library, an archive, storage spaces, a cafe and a restaurant, and also an education centre for children and a dedicated gallery.