Located in the Yunnan province of Southwest China, the new Qujing History Museum looks more like an anti-gravity spaceship than a museum of natural history. Designed by Chinese architectural firm Hordor Design Group, in collaboration with Beijing-based Atelier Alter, the newly-opened museum is home to a breathtaking range of historical artifacts, including the Entelognathus primordialis, a 419-million-year-old fish fossil believed to be the oldest in the entire world, and the Longyan Tablet, which is known for being the earliest surviving instance of calligraphy.
According to the architects, the museum’s design, featuring an enormous cantilevered roof, is inspired mainly by the beautifully intricate ink strokes in the Longyan Tablet. Completed earlier this year, the six-story structure encompasses a total area of 202,361.5-sq-ft, with an average construction cost of around $88 for every sqaure foot of floor space. Likened to a “vertical landscape of concrete”, the angled roof extends outward to shelter a ground-level plaza near the building’s main entrance. Speaking about the project, the spokesperson of Atelier Alter said:
The archaeological relics are both metaphor and subject matter of the project. Instead of assimilating into analogies of the site – terrace field, fossil grain or calligraphic strokes – the formal expression of the architecture is in dialogue between the concrete and the abstract, the familiar and the unfamiliar.
The museum’s design, originally conceived by the architects at Atelier Alter, includes an elaborate framework of steel sections that, in turn, provide strength and stability to the entire structure. The jagged exterior resembles an upside-down staircase, and is built using thousands of carefully-stacked concrete panels. Furthemore, in keeping with the building’s grey tone, the roof canopy features a uniform linear arrangement of metal panels. The area, surrounding the museum, actually mirrors the roof’s angled shape, by forming a raised plateau on all of its sides. The studio added:
The graduated suspension of the enormous roof presents an ‘anti-gravity’ architecture statement that puts audiences in awe. The strong presence of the void reinstates the gravitas of the museum’s subject matter – a profound history that dates back over 4,000 million years. A vertical landscape made of concrete drapes down from roof to the ground. As audiences penetrate the landscape and reach to the exhibition zone, geography and humanity converge at that very moment.
Upon entering the building, the visitors are brought to a centrally-located space, which provides direct access to the various exhibition galleries. Additionally, the museum houses a bronze room and a separate room for artifacts belonging to folk culture. Workshops, offices and conference areas are present on the west side of the building, while the ground floor contains a huge auditorium.