Shanghai has a new museum. The West Bund Museum designed by British architecture practice David Chipperfield, is a new art gallery located on the Shanghai Corniche, an 8.5-kilometre frontage on the northern bank of the Huangpu River. The promenade connects the Xuhui district to the historic Bund and forms a key part of the West Bund Masterplan, which envisages a new cultural district over 9km² of former industrial land.
The 22,000m² museum occupies a triangular plot at the northernmost tip of a new public park, at the point where Longteng Avenue and the river converge. A raised public esplanade above the flood plain surrounds the building, offering views to the river. The edge of the esplanade on the east side is delineated by a continuous series of steps with landing stages leading to the riverbank. The site offered the opportunity to create a completely freestanding structure and its location allowed for improved access to both the river and the park.
The building consists of three main gallery volumes placed in a pinwheel formation around a central lobby with a double-height atrium. This configuration allows for different components of the museum to operate independently. The lobby itself is accessed from Longteng Avenue to the west and from the riverside to the east. The latter offers two entrance options: the visitor can either descend into a sunken courtyard at a lower level or climb a set of stairs from the esplanade to arrive in the central lobby at a higher level. Both of these levels give access to the main gallery spaces. The book shop and café can be found at an intermediate level directly connected to Longteng Avenue.
Each of the three main volumes is 17 metres high, with an upper and lower level. The upper level of each volume contains a top-lit gallery space. The spaces on the lower level vary in function, housing a multipurpose hall, an art studio and education spaces. These are partially sunken and lit by clerestory windows (windows that are above eye level to admit light and fresh air). A low pavilion housing the café sits at the river’s edge at the level of the esplanade. Its elongated form is intended to maximise river views while its roof serves as a generous terrace fronting the upper entrance.
The roof of the atrium remains below the roofline of the major volumes and cantilevers far out beyond the building towards the river and the road. At either end, the roof is supported by a colossal tapering column that draws attention to the entrances. The three dominant volumes are clad with translucent recycled glass, lending the complex an opaline quality. These façades, appearing iridescent during the day and prismatic at night, stand in contrast with the smooth brightness of the plaster clad hovering roof canopies. The pinwheel configuration of the galleries is reinforced with large windows at their outer ends offering panoramic views over the park, the river and the city.
The Centre Pompidou Paris and the publicly-owned West Bund Group have agreed on a contract establishing a cultural partnership. In the five years following the opening, the Centre Pompidou will be showing a number of exhibitions in the new museum as part of a cultural collaboration between France and China.
Photos: Simon Menges