Museum of Zhang Zhidong

Wuhan, China


Located at the site of Wuhan’s old steelworks, Studio Libeskind’s design is a sweeping ark-like structure that is hoisted above the surrounding plaza by two steel and glass structures. The gravity defying form is clad in geometric steel panels, reminiscent of the industries’ past.  Once inside, visitors climb the main staircase that connects to the exhibition spaces above where they are divided into four themes about the accomplishments and ideas surrounding the life of Zhang Zhidong. The exhibition also includes various collaborations with local artists who explore aspects of the differing themes through installations and interactive works of art.

On the second floor of the museum is a semi-circular auditorium that features an oculus and opens to reveal a panoramic view of the old steelworks next door.  A central atrium connects the three levels of the building while ushering natural light into the galleries.  On the top gallery floor, the space is reserved for on-going temporary exhibitions.  At the apex of the building, a lattice opening in the structure allows for views out towards the city of Wuhan.

The landscaped areas surrounding the museum emphasize radiating lines and rings.  The plaza features a nautical dial pattern with China’s major cities inscribed into the paving including Wuhan. The hardscape uses local stone materials mixed with salvaged stone and brick works that were recovered during the site demolition.

The Museum of Zhang ZhiDong is dedicated to the life and contribution of the 19th century leader, who was a prominent and historical local figure who helped modernize Wuhan through the Industrial Revolution. It was designed to recall the city’s industrial past, while looking to the future.

The building was completed in May 2018.

“The bold design of the building accurately reflects the force with which Wuhan was able to establish itself as a primary manufacturer of steel and iron in China while simultaneously accentuating the city’s promising future.”
−Architect’s Newspaper, July 2013