Jingdezhen Imperial Kiln Museum / Studio Zhu-Pei

View to open vaults. Image © Schran ImageSunken courtyard. Image Courtesy of Studio Zhu-PeiView from tea&cafe open vault to main entrance. Image © Schran ImageView from the amphitheater to the Ming dynasty ruins. Image © Schran Image+ 48

  • Architects

    Studio Zhu-Pei
  • Location

    East gate of Royal Kiln Factory, Junction of Shengli Road and Zhonghua North Road, Zhushan District, Jingdezhen, Jiangxi, China

  • Project Year

    2020

  • Photographs

    Courtesy of Studio Zhu-Pei, Schran Image, Fangfang Tian

  • Area

    10370.0 m2

  • Co-architects

    Architectural Design & Research Institute of Tsinghua University

  • Design Principal

    Zhu Pei

  • Front Criticism

    Rong Zhou

  • Art Consultant

    Mingxian Wang, Xiangning Li

  • Design team

    Changchen You, Mo Han, Fan He, Ling Liu, Zhigang Wu, Shun Zhang, Shuhei Nakamura, Shengchen Yang, Yang Du, Yida Chen, Chenglong He, Xinyue Ding

  • Structural Consultant

    Architectural Design & Research Institute of Tsinghua University

  • MEP Consultant

    Architectural Design & Research Institute of Tsinghua University

  • Green Building Consultant

    Architectural Design & Research Institute of Tsinghua University

  • Landscape Design

    Studio Zhu-Pei, Architectural Design and Research Institute of Tsinghua University

  • Exhibition Design

    Studio Zhu-Pei, Beijing Qingshang Architectural Ornamental Engineering CO., LTD.

  • Interior Design

    Studio Zhu-Pei, Beijing Qingshang Architectural Ornamental Engineering CO., LTD.

  • Facade Consultant

    Shenzhen Dadi Facade Technology CO., LTD.

  • Lighting Consultant

    Ning Field Lighting Design CO., LTD.

  • Acoustic Consultant

    Building Science & Technology Institute, Zhejiang University

  • Client

    Jingdezhen Municipal Bureau of Culture Radio Television Press Publication and Tourism, Jingdezhen Ceramic Culture Tourism Group

  • Main Contractor

    China Construction First Group Corporation Limited, Huajiang Construction CO., LTD of China Construction First Group

© Fangfang Tian
© Fangfang Tian

Context. Located in the center of a historical area, the site of the Museum is adjacent to the Imperial Kiln ruins surrounding with many ancient kiln complexes. Jingdezhen is known as the “Porcelain Capital” in the world because it has been producing pottery for 1,700 years. In the Ming and Qing dynasties, Jingdezhen exported a huge amount of porcelains to Europe.

© Fangfang Tian
© Fangfang Tian
© Schran Image
© Schran Image

Jingdezhen was growing naturally fitting in the valleys surrounding rivers, hills, and mountains because of the porcelain industry. The early settlements of the city developed around kiln complexes which included kiln, workshops, and housing. The street pattern was generated by nature and the porcelain industry. Most of the small alleys in between kiln complexes have always approached to Chang river in order to transport porcelain products to the river, the main streets have always been along with Chang river to bring all businesses and commercial together.   

View to open vaults. Image © Schran Image
View to open vaults. Image © Schran Image

Public. Situated on a fairly restricted historical area adjacent to the east side of the Imperial Kiln ruins, the plan of Imperial Kiln Museum was aligned with the north-south street grid of Jingdezhen, with its entry, water pools, bridge, facing west, embracing the open file of Imperial Kiln Ruins, welcoming visitors from Imperial Kiln Relic Park and public pedestrians to be wandering through the forest under the green canopy, going through the bridge, flowing into the foyer of the museum.

View in between open vaults. Image © Schran Image
View in between open vaults. Image © Schran Image
View to open vaults. Image © Schran Image
View to open vaults. Image © Schran Image

Concept. The Imperial Kiln Museum comprises more than half a dozen brick vaults base on the traditional form of the kiln, each of the vaults is of a different size, curvature, and length. They were naturally applied to the site, carefully integrated with many existing ruins including a few ruins that were found after the construction.

Sketch
Sketch
View to auditorium and sunken courtyard. Image Courtesy of Studio Zhu-Pei
View to auditorium and sunken courtyard. Image Courtesy of Studio Zhu-Pei

The unparalleled, liner, and arched structures of the museum, like old kilns, reach below the level of the street to not only give the flexibility to adapt itself into the complicated site, but also achieve an intimate scale of interior space. This strategy – in part also a response to the height of surrounding historical buildings – leads to productive ambiguity in relation to the building’s horizontal datum. The “insertion” of the building into the ground of the site produces a series of public spaces at street level; also, more importantly, it allows for the design of a number of more intimate open vaults, and courtyards within the museum. Most of those public spaces are covered under shaded, protected from rains because of hot and rain a lot during summer in Jingdezhen. One of those open spaces, two open vaults sited in both ends, will also reveal the traces of the historic fabric on the site.

View to tea&cafe. Image © Schran Image
View to tea&cafe. Image © Schran Image
View from tea&cafe open vault to main entrance. Image © Schran Image
View from tea&cafe open vault to main entrance. Image © Schran Image

When one walks on the bridge and enter the foyer, and then turn left, you will pass a series of arched exhibition spaces lightly varied in size and with contradicting openness (enclosed or open to the sky) to encounter a gentle stair, in the end, flowing down to the underground level with five sunken courtyards.

Foyer. Image © Schran Image
Foyer. Image © Schran Image
Foyer. Image © Schran Image
Foyer. Image © Schran Image

Meanwhile, you can obtain a three-in-one (kilns-porcelains-people) museum experience when you see those porcelain, ruins, and sunken courtyards which create manifold layers’ experiences with ancient bricks on the façade.

View to the foyer of auditorium. Image © Schran Image
View to the foyer of auditorium. Image © Schran Image

As you turn right at the foyer, you will respectively pass the bookstore, cafe, tea room and finally reach a semi-outdoor area under the arch, witnessing a picturesque scene: in daytime surfaces on these arches reflect the waves of water while low horizontal gaps tempt people to sit down on the floor to see the long horizon of the imperial kiln ruins, without expectation. A similar surprise would be created when you see the Longzhu Pavilion of the imperial kiln ruins through the vertical seams when you are on the way to the auditorium before accessing the foyer.

View from foyer to design store and tea&cafe. Image © Schran Image
View from foyer to design store and tea&cafe. Image © Schran Image
View to design store and tea&cafe. Image © Schran Image
View to design store and tea&cafe. Image © Schran Image

Five sunken courtyards varied in size have a different theme: gold, wood, water, fire, soil. Those five themes not only reflect old Chinese thinking about the earth but also associate with porcelain making techniques. The overall experience of the museum tries to rediscover the roots of Jingdezhen, to recreate the past experience among kiln, porcelain, and human being.

View to open vaults. Image © Schran Image
View to open vaults. Image © Schran Image
View from the amphitheater to the Ming dynasty ruins. Image © Schran Image
View from the amphitheater to the Ming dynasty ruins. Image © Schran Image
View to the Ming dynasty ruins. Image © Schran Image
View to the Ming dynasty ruins. Image © Schran Image

Structure and Materials. I was fascinated by the local ancient kiln tectonic and material. Looking in the past, craftsmen built the brick kiln without scaffolding in a very special way. Thin and light brick kiln achieved a maximum interior space with minimum materials, the brick kilns appeared in organic forms reflecting heat flow from one end to another. The basic structure of the museum is an arch structure system, it is made up of concrete poured in between two layers ‘masonry brick walls. There is a small arch to be layout perpendicularly to connect two arches. 

Sunken courtyard. Image Courtesy of Studio Zhu-Pei
Sunken courtyard. Image Courtesy of Studio Zhu-Pei

Using recycled kiln bricks to build a house and all kind of buildings is a significant character in Jingdezhen because brick kilns have to be demolished every two or three years in order to keep a certain thermal performance of the kilns. The entire city was covered by recycled kiln bricks. Those bricks record a warmth, inseparable from the lifeblood of the city. In the past, the children would take a warm brick from the firing kilns to place in their schoolbags to keep warm the whole day in the freezing winter.

Auditorium. Image © Schran Image
Auditorium. Image © Schran Image

The materials of the museum are dominated by bricks, recycled old kiln bricks are mixed with new bricks together to reflect the local culture of construction. This interweaving of two different historical phases proposed by the combination of new and old bricks must arouse interest, curiosity, create new questions and give new answers by interacting with the mind of people who inevitably evoke memories and enjoy a unique experience. The past cannot be erased but rewritten by recounting a new awareness and maturity, a sort of contemporary archeology.

Stair. Image © Schran Image
Stair. Image © Schran Image

The visitor can have a 360-degree sensory experience through the repeated contact between exterior and interior that stimulates the touch, smell, hearing, and sight and transports the visitor into a sort of trip between past, present, and nature.

Atrium. Image © Schran Image
Atrium. Image © Schran Image

Natural light. Even the light evokes active and tangible memories and is proof of how ancient techniques can be reinterpreted and reread in a contemporary key. The interior natural light is achieved by both skylight and sunken courtyard, inspired by smoke holes of the ancient brick kiln, the skylight in hollow cylinder shape are distributed on the top part of the arch to provide natural light in the day time and artificial light in the night time.

Vault, brick, and light. Image © Schran Image
Vault, brick, and light. Image © Schran Image
Vault, brick, and light. Image © Schran Image
Vault, brick, and light. Image © Schran Image