Wutopia Lab completes museum and dance studio influenced by Chinese ink drawings

Monologue Art Museum by Wutopia Lab

The inky brushstrokes of traditional Chinese paintings influenced the fluid forms of this museum complex that architecture firm Wutopia Lab has designed for a property developer in Qinhuangdao.

The Shanghai studio headed by architect Yu Ting designed the Monologue Art Museum for Beijing-based property investment and development firm Sino-Ocean Group.

Curved water feature in museum complex in China
Wutopia Lab has designed a museum complex with fluid forms. Photo is by CreatAR

Located at the centre of a park within the Seatopia resort in the Beidaihe area, the complex comprises an art gallery, a dance studio, a yoga room and a theatre. The museum’s name refers to its role as a quiet island within the bustling residential district.

The various programmatic spaces within the 1,300-square-metre cultural centre are arranged as a sequence of independent elements connected by gently curving walls and corridors.

Water feature in Monologue Art Museum by Wutopia Lab
Curving walls surround a central water feature. Photo is by CreatAR

“Monologue Art Museum is a multifunctional space,” said Ting. “It allows different people to be in different spaces at the same time, but one can be alone in an artistic way.”

The overall plan resembles a triangle with curved edges. The four main functional zones are enclosed within an outer wall that also surrounds a black reflecting pool.


Monologue Art Museum by Wutopia Lab
The scroll-like layout accommodates a range of facilities including a dance studio and an art gallery

Ting described the boundary wall linking the different spaces as “a shifting ink line” that evokes the brushstrokes used in Chinese painting.

Just like brushstrokes, the museum’s perimeter varies in thickness along its length, with narrower areas forming corridors that widen to accommodate spaces including the art gallery and a tearoom.

Light-filled corridors in Monologue Art Museum in China
The corridors’ varying thicknesses were inspired by brush marks

The architect said the museum’s layout resembles “a slowly unfolding hand scroll” that begins with a small, circular auditorium.

The multipurpose auditorium functions as a foyer and a performance space, with a circular stage positioned beneath a curving skylight that allows daylight to illuminate the interior.

Auditorium with black stage illuminated by round skylight in China
The stage in the auditorium is illuminated by a skylight

A corridor lined internally with glazing provides a view of the central water feature as it sweeps around towards the nearby yoga room.

The corridor’s full-height glass surface is achieved using a slender cast-concrete ceiling slab supported by steel beams concealed within the walls.

Corridor with strip lights and glass walls with views to water feature and curved buildings
Glass runs from the floor to the ceiling along the corridor, providing views to the rest of the complex. Photo is by CreatAR

The maximum cantilever of the roof is 4.6 metres, which helps to ensure a fully transparent wall with no supporting elements interrupting the view of the reflecting pool.

The yoga room is housed in a cylindrical volume featuring a two-storey glass facade that changes colour gradually across its height.

Ting felt it was important to introduce this multihued element to enliven the otherwise monochrome scheme. The structure contains a yoga space positioned at the water level and a suspended changing area above.

The rectangular dance studio is designed as a box with translucent glass walls that allow daylight to naturally illuminate the interior while filtering views outwards to limit distractions.

Dance studio with mirrored wall by Wutopia Lab
The dance studio features a mirrored wall and a gridded ceiling

A mirrored wall along one side of the classroom conceals an entrance foyer and a spiral stair leading to a mezzanine changing area.

The shallow reflecting pool at the centre of the complex incorporates a sinuous flowing channel, which pours out from a fountain towards the centre of the courtyard.

The water then spirals and twists before disappearing beneath the yoga room and making its way towards the Yellow Sea.

Dark curved corridor with warm moody lighting and slim opening
Slim openings create dramatic lighting effects in the complex

Six trees that emerge from the water alongside the dance studio reference a landscape painting called Six Gentlemen by the Yuan dynasty artist Ni Zan, of which Ting is a fan.

Part of the complex’s outer wall is formed of perforated concrete bricks arranged in a modular pattern that allows light to penetrate. Ting called the perimeter surface a “flower wall” and suggested that it resembles the pattern created by a brush as the ink on it dries.

Yu Ting founded Wutopia Lab in 2013 along with Min Erni. The firm’s previous projects include a guesthouse near Suzhou with rooms that appear to float within its gabled volume, and a cloud-shaped pavilion near Shanghai that was designed to look like melted chocolate.

The photography is by Seven W unless stated otherwise.

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