foster + partners completes datong art museum as four interlocking pyramids

foster + partners completes datong art museum as four interlocking pyramids

a series of interconnected pyramids as a cultural hub


after almost a decade of construction, the foster + partners-designed datong art museum opens its doors to the public. the museum’s sculptural form takes shape as four interlocking pyramidal roof peaks, giving the feeling that it emerges from below the earth. the design team sought to assemble a new cultural destination in china, where the project will become a creative hub in the region of datong.


‘the museum is conceived as a social hub for people – an ‘urban living room’ for datong – that brings people, art and artists together in a space where they can interact. at the heart of the museum, the grand gallery exemplifies this spirit with a generously scaled, flexible exhibition space designed to accommodate specially commissioned large-scale artworks as well as performance art and other events,’ mentioned luke fox, head of studio, foster + partners.

four interlocking pyramids complete 'datong art museum' by foster + partners
all images by foster + partners



multi-functional cultural space


the gallery spaces are embedded into the ground and surrounded by green squares. in addition to the museum’s cultural program, the design team at foster + partners developed education and learning areas including a children’s gallery, media library, archive, and art storage facilities.


diagonal paths guide the visitors towards the museum entrance: a serpentine of ramps lead down into an open sunken plaza, serving also as an amphitheater for outdoor performances. once entering the building, the guests face the mezzanine level overlooking the grand gallery acting as the social heart of the museum.


perimeter exhibition spaces contain state-of-the-art climate controls while with this arrangement the access is easier. a key element for the design was the education and learning area with a dedicated children’s gallery, filled with daylight from tall, south-facing windows. a smaller education center and a media library complement the education program and there are facilities to support artists’ residencies, talks, and conferences.


four interlocking pyramids complete 'datong art museum' by foster + partners
a clerestory between each volume creates a naturally lit interior during the day, while creating a unique beacon for the new cultural quarter at night



passive design responds to datong’s climate


linear openings that follow the shape of the roofs let natural light penetrate the interior. the roof is clad in naturally oxidized curved steel plates that help drain water and give a rich, three-dimensional quality to the surface. by sinking the building into the new plaza, the design creates a spatial connection with the surrounding cultural buildings, while optimizing the internal volume.


skylights within the high ceilings introduce northern and north-western daylight to aid orientation while creating an optimal environment to display artworks with natural illumination and minimal solar gain. the roof is mostly solid and is insulated to twice the building code requirements. ‘designed for the future, we hope the museum will become the centre of the city’s cultural life – a dynamic public destination,’ added fox.

four interlocking pyramids complete 'datong art museum' by foster + partners
the design of the roof is a direct response to the large structural span of the building and the desire to create a vast, flexible column-free volume below

foster + partners completes datong art museum as four interlocking pyramids

measuring 37 meters in height and spanning eighty meters in width



project info:


name: datong art museum

architects: foster + partners

location: china 

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