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Curvaceous Chinese museum counteracts city's rigidity

Rising from the dunes of the Gobi Desert and near the newly constructed Ordos City, the Ordos Museum will house Mongolian cultural heritage.

Ordos City is a new metropolis set in the coal-rich Inner Mongolia and plopped down in the middle of the Gobi Desert -- one of many shiny new cities that have emerged in that region within the past five or six years.

Clad in bronze-colored polished metal louvers, which serve to filter in the intense desert sun and provide ventilation, the Ordos Museum is now complete. Its shape -- a round, irregular orb -- is meant to counterbalance the rigid, strict geometry on which Ordos City is built.

The design is also a reference to the sun rising over the desert and was inspired by Buckminster Fuller's Manhattan Dome, though instead of housing Ordos City, the Ordos Museum is intended to be a refuge from it.

The building, which clocks in at more than 27K square meters and rises 130 feet high, will house cultural artifacts of Mongolia. The design is the work of MAD, a Beijing-based architecture firm that is led by Ma Yansong, Dang Qun and Yosuke Hayano, winners of the Young Architecture Award from the New York Institute of Architects in 2006 and the 2011 RIBA international fellowship.

Like the round shell, the building's interior is void of angularity. The curvilinear walls are full of crannies and chambers -- think of being inside a massive pumice stone. Large sections of glazing throughout the ceiling and walls bathe the interior in light. Dark, arterial staircases connect the interior sections. Some are long and softly arching while others are short and steep.

While MAD has released this ethereal video that alludes to a linkage between Mongolia's nomadic (and equine-centric) heritage and Ordos City's urbanism, there aren't many details surrounding the museum's contents or mission.

MAD's other work includes the Absolute Towers, a set of curvy, soaring suburban condominiums outside Toronto   It's also designing a museum in Harbin, China, which will feature traditional Chinese wood sculpture. That design has a look similar to the Ordos Museum, though with a shiny, metallic exterior instead of warm facade of the Ordos building.

Photos: MAD Architects

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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