Maritime Museum of China

Maritime Museum of China

Project: National Maritime Museum of China, Tianjin, China

Architects: Cox Architecture, Australia

The design of the National Maritime Museum of China originated in an international competition staged in 2013. The museum is located on a bay in the port city of Tianjin, to the east of Beijing. It is designed to reach out into the bay from a large waterfront parkland, behind which a new city district called Binhai is being developed. The plan comprises five linear pavilions that fan out and cantilever over the water from a central arrival and interpretation hall. This hall provides access to the upper of two exhibition levels. Below it, the collections stores enable artefacts to be taken radially out to each of the lower exhibition levels.

Three of the hall pavilions have specific themes — World Maritime Civilisation, Chinese Maritime Culture, and Oceans and Nature. The World Maritime and Chinese Maritime halls are interconnected so that visitors can understand and interpret China’s maritime evolution in relation to events in Europe, America and wider Asia. A fourth hall contains a historic vessel visible from the park, and the fifth hall has four levels comprising public education, research and administration sections. Apart from a functional resolution, a reason for distinctly articulating the halls was to impart visual permeability from the city to the bay.




The second reason was to create a series of forms that seem to flow between the parkland and the bay as a piece of land art. As the design evolved several metaphors emerged — corals, starfish, jumping carp, sea anemones, moored ships in port, an open hand reaching out from China to the world. None were meant to be literal but nevertheless evocative of the museum, and we allowed some to influence various elements, such as the ribbed structure and shimmering metallic roof tiles.

To finesse the design, we built physical models of the whole and of details, concurrent with parametric computer modelling. The physical models focused on human scale and interaction while the algorithmic models helped solve the doubly curved structure and cladding system. The major energy source for the 80,000sq m building is geothermal, drawn from 100m below ground

Fact File

Client: National Maritime Museum Preparation Office

Design Team: Tianjin Architectural Design Institute (TADI), China

Consultants: Tianjin Architectural Design Institute (TADI), China with Arup as design competition structural engineers

Contractors: China State Construction Engineering Company (CSCEC) Eight Branch

Size: 80,000 sq m

Year of completion: 2017