Jishou Art Museum

Architect:  ATELIER FCJZ

Location: Jishou, China

Unlike other contemporary cultural institutions in China, the Jishou Art Museum in the regional capital of Xiangxi is centered in the community. By not treating this project like a separate, freestanding monument, the museum makes art more accessible to Jishou’s residents and makes encounters with art on their way to work and school much more likely.

Firmly cemented in the city’s urban fabric, the new museum straddles the Wanrong River and functions much like a pedestrian bridge. Covered bridges called fengyu qiao, meaning wind and rain bridge, are common in this mountainous region of China, and the design is a contemporary interpretation of the time-honored building type. The introduction of art as a program element helps translate the formal language of the traditional bridge into a modern context.

The museum itself comprises two bridges, one atop the other. The lower level pedestrian bridge is an open steel truss structure, reminiscent of a roofed-walkway, prepared for flooding of the Wanrong. The upper level is a concrete arch, cast in-situ, containing a painting gallery. Between both bridges, glazed walls and a tiled shading system enclose the museum’s main hall that houses temporary exhibitions. Supplementary spaces, including a shop, teahouse, and administrative offices, are housed in the bridgeheads at either end.  

Flooding was the major concern of the site, and to meet local flood prevention requirements the lowest point of the museum sits above the 50-year flood like. The steel trusses on the pedestrian level were designed to maximize openings and to cut through tree branches carried by flood water.

Renowned artist Huang Yongyu, who is a native of the region, first proposed the idea of an art museum in the city, supported it as a major donor, and informed its programming and design. Rather than collect art, the Jishou Art Museum showcases the work of local artists with the community in an effort to promote Xiangxi’s arts and culture. Open to the public for free, its location in the center of Jishou and its function as a bridge help fulfill the museum’s mission in a creative way.

"...extraordinary program and notable attempt to engage the vernacular on several levels." - Jury comment


Samuel M. Miller, FAIA (Chair), LMN, Seattle, Washington

Merrill Elam, AIA, Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects, Atlanta, Georgia

Rebecca Sharkey, AIA, EHDD, San Francisco, California

Dale Frens, AIA, patterhn ives, llc, West Chester, Pennsylvania

Michael Johns, FAIA, NOMA, Mdesigns + MWJ Consulting LLC, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Michelle Acosta, AIA, SmithGroup, Phoenix, Arizona

Trinity Simons, Mayor's Institute on City Design, Washington, District of Columbia

Kevin Alter, Assoc. AIA, Alterstudio Architecture, Austin, Texas

Caleb Bertels, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas

Image credits

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Tian Fangfang

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Tian Fangfang

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Tian Fangfang

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Tian Fangfang

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Tian Fangfang