july cooperative company has created a serene landscape for the anji archaeology museum in huzhou, china. leading visitors from the entrance of the site, the passage of time garden weaves around the existing building before leading outward to the surrounding mountains. by combining a variety of shapes and textures, the design seeks to create a balanced relationship between natural and man-made elements.

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overview of the inner garden

all images by hao chen



the project is composed of an inner and outer garden and follows the path of the museum tour route, which is characterized by long hallways that connect different exhibition halls. the design language uses natural forms within the inner garden, then gradually transitions to more abstract, man-made elements in the outer garden.

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the inner garden creates a calm and peaceful image



the main entrance of the museum is located at the south, an area characterized by the gray walls of the building. here, visitors are invited to pause for a brief moment and take in the stillness of the scenery. viewed from the entrance, the inner garden is framed by the towering walls of the exhibition halls and the roof of the entrance hall. tall evergreen trees also rise from the ground, creating a scene that resembles a painting by renowned dynasty artist, ni zan, called fishing village in autumn.

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inner garden detail



the inner garden uses stones as the foundations, evergreen trees as pillars, and stone bridges, along with different paving patterns and surface textures to create different sensory experiences. the central stone bridge represents the ‘flow’ from one space to the next, in contrast from the vertical elements and extending one’s perspective. in essence, the inner garden aims to create a calm and peaceful image, like tall mountains and flowing rivers.

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inner garden detail



continuing from the entrance, visitors enter into the next scene where the buildings are no longer the backdrop. instead, the outer garden, surrounded by nature, comes into view. in this space, the stone sculptures become the dominant vertical element and guide the visitors as they meander through the garden.

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the inner garden invites visitors to pause at the entrance for a brief moment



as visitors stroll from the inner to the outer garden, the stones change from smooth river stones to mountain stones with lines across the surface. in this way, the design language transitions from natural to geometric and man-made. accompanied by tall pines on either side, the passageway between the two gardens intends to recreate the feeling of hiking a tall mountain from the river. 

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looking through the passageway



exiting the passageway, the view expands horizontally as the buildings no longer frame the perspective, giving visitors the feeling of reaching the mountain top. on the grassy meadow, 13 large granite stones point towards the only focal point and spiritual center of the outer garden, a 6.3 meter tall yellow rust stone sculpture.

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the passageway mountain stones



the sculpture is composed of many smaller pieces of stone with different finishes, which also displays the transition from natural to man-made. as a single entity, the sculpture intends to provoke reflection on the insignificance of humankind compared to the sculpture, and also the insignificance of the sculpture compared to nature, thus creating a spiritual connection between human and nature. when viewed from afar, the sculpture and the island it sits on become part of the natural scenery, looming against the bamboo forest, signifying man-made landscapes regressing towards nature.

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the passageway mountain stones with cracked lines across the surface

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the outer garden sculpture is composed of 13 rust yellow stones

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the relationship between the sculpture and the surrounding landscape becomes clearer

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the team redesigned the flow pattern and the riparian edge of the water in the outer garden to better assimilate the stone sculpture into the landscape

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outer garden



project info:


project name: passage of time garden
location: anji archaeology museum, huzhou, zhejiang province, china
design firm: july cooperative company
lead designers: heng kang, xiaonan hu, yang su, haizhou zhen
project scope: conceptual design, construction drawings, design supervision
architectural design: GOA
client: zhejiang lvjun longshanyuan travel development co., ltd.
project size: approx. 6000 m2 (64,583.5 ft2)
construction date: march 2019
completion date: may 2020
photography: hao chen


designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.


edited by: lynne myers | designboom