I made a brief stop in the sub-tropical city of Guangzhou (Canton) to visit The Guangdong Museum. The Guangdong Museum was designed by Hong Kong based Rocco Architects and completed in 2010. They won the project through an International design competition (by invitation only) held in 2004.
The project was originally conceived of as an Objet d’Art, such as a secret lacquered box or sacred bowl realised at the scale of the city. Over time it is not only envisioned to collect and reflect treasures but to also be accepted as a treasure and cultural icon by the people of the Pearl River Delta. Both the treatment of the main facade and the interior spatial arrangement and dynamism reference the ‘ivory puzzle ball’; a treasured multilayered and concentrically cut orb. The objects on display in the museum show the local history of the province and aim to strengthen cultural identity.
On arrival, the most surprising thing was that the main entry court did not face the Pearl River. After visiting the river it made sense. At the point where the Museum adjoins the River there is an island that blocks clear access and views. The entry court addresses the main visual axis that runs through the city to the water, broken physically by a number of major cross roads and a Sports Centre. At the water’s end of the axis is a large public park and court lined with major cultural landmark buildings including the Guangdong Museum (Rocco Architects) and the Guangzhou Opera House (Zaha Hadid).
Visitors entering the Museum are limited to 3000 per day and so on busy days the wait can be quite lengthy.
Once inside I really enjoyed the feeling of being in the central atrium space. It was light, airy and beautifully layered. The break out alcoves adjacent to the entry points to the main gallery spaces were also a joy. They offered a new perspective of this city of Ghangzhou. Through perforated screens, cut outs and framing one could get a sense of the immensity of the new city rapidly exploding on the skyline.