UCCA Dune Art Museum, The Museum Among the Dunes

The UCCA Art Museum, designed by OPEN Architecture, is located along the coast of Bohai Bay, in northern China, and is inspired by children’s excavations on the beach

In perfect harmony with the surroundings, the UCCA Dune Art Museum in Bohai Bay  covers an area of 930 sq m, under a large sand dune that has been formed over thousands of years, thanks to the wind blowing from the sea. This organic project was developed by Chinese firm OPEN Architecture, whose aim was to preserve the vulnerable ecosystem of the dunes.

Winner of the AZ Awards in the ‘Best in Architecture: Buildings Under 1,000 Square Metres’ category, its interior space develops like a system of interconnected caves. Crossing the threshold of the museum, after a small reception area and a dark tunnel, the space opens onto a larger multifunctional room lit from above by the large skylight on the ceiling. From here, a series of contiguous cell-like spaces branch off, housing the rich and varied programs of the Dune Art Museum. There are galleries of different sizes and a café where you can relax while watching the sea.


Through the several openings in the walls and ceilings, visitors can admire the changes in the sky and sea throughout the day. From the dark recesses, a spiral staircase leads to a viewpoint on the sand dune, an ideal place for meditation.

The complex three-dimensional geometry of the concrete shell of the UCCA Dune Art Museum was hand-modeled by local workers in Qinhuangdao, using formwork made from small linear strips of wood and other materials. The architect decided to keep the irregular and imperfect structure and consequently everything is custom-made: doors and windows, the reception desk, the bar counter, the bathroom sinks.

For the surfaces the choice fell on three solutions by Ideal Work®, a Treviso-based company specializing in innovative floors and surfaces. Microtopping is the surface used in the restrooms for walls, ceiling and washbasins, the external balcony, coffee tables, stairs and outdoor tables; the Lixio Venetian-style floor was chosen for the gallery, reception and café; and Nuvolato Architop, with its industrial style, was chosen to cover the internal balcony. [Text Paola Molteni – Photo WU Qingshan]

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