I.M. Pei's inspired re-imagining of a former prince's palace.
Founded in 1960 and originally located in the national historic landmark, Zhong Wang Fu palace complex, Suzhou Museum has been a highly-regarded regional museum. A new museum designed by world famous architect I.M.Pei was completed in October 2006. The design of this new museum visually complements the traditional architecture of Zhong Wang Fu.
Mr. I. M. Pei is a world renowned architect from the United States. However, he was born in Guangdong, Province of China in 1917, and immigrated to the States in 1935. His Pei Partnership Architect Firm was established in 1955 and his designs can be found all over the world. Just to name a few representative ones, there are the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong, the East Wing of the National Gallery in Washington, and the Grand Pyramid of the Louvre, Paris.
Traditional Chinese architecture has a substantial influence on I.M. Pei's architectural designs. This is fully evident in his design for the Suzhou Museum. Indeed, he has long admired the layout of traditional Suzhou gardens, which feature long corridors, a zigzag bridge, piled rockery resembling miniature mountains, and water pavilions. He is undoubtedly a master in blending the traditional design style with the contemporary. For example, the Fragrant Hill Hotel in Beijing is a masterpiece combining the Chinese traditional architecture and the modern art.
Although there are not many plants in the garden, all of them were chosen by him. His specific request was that the shape of the trees should be elegant, with gentle and harmonious lines, to complement the hard-edged character of the architecture with the softness of the plants, to achieve an enhanced beauty.
The black pottery tiles have been replaced by granite slates. This granite is known as Chinese Black, quarried from the borders of Inner Mongolia and the Shanxi Provinces. It is dense and hard, and never splits, qualities that make it a suitable replacement for the traditional small black pottery tiles. Arranged in a diamond pattern on the roofs, the granite slates appear dark gray on bright days and deep black when it rains.
The Great Hall connects with the other areas of the Museum. When you stand here you will certainly have a sense of brightness and happiness. If you look up at the ceiling of the great hall, you will see that its framing elements consist of squares and triangles, as in a geometric painting. The traditional wooden beams have been replaced by glass and steel, resolving the lighting constraints characteristic of traditional Chinese architecture.This is the essence of I.M Pei's concept of “allowing the light to make the design.”
For I.M. Pei, a fundamental principle is to allow the light to form the design. His use of natural light is brilliant therefore he is called ' the magician of light '. When you walk around the museum,you will be able to observe how sunlight and reflected light come together to create all kinds of light and shade. Soft light and shade cover the floor surfaces as well as the walls, changing according to the movement of the sun. The sudden changes of light and shade will give you different visual and emotional sensations. Because of the introduction of natural light, there is a relationship between the interior and exterior spaces, which are woven together in light and shade, and we too become an integral part of this process.
What you see at first are the metallic rays of light from the yellow panels, which soften the light and create different tones of light and dark. If you stand on the upper floor to see the roof of the corridor, you will see three layers of roofs with different heights rising from east to west, in a fluent organization of space.
Suzhou Museum, Suzhou, China