Ningbo History Museum, China / Wang Shu / Amateur Architecture Studio

Architect                                 : Wang Shu / Amateur Architecture Studio

Location                                   : Ningbo, China

Client                                         : Ningbo History Museum

Status                                        : Completed

Year                                            : 2008

Area                                           : 30,000 sqm

The Ningbo Museum sits on a massive unpopulated plaza in Yinzhou, a district in the city of Ningbo with a 5,000-year history that looks like it was established last year. The streets that surround it are wide enough to accommodate six lanes of traffic, but are virtually car-free. The sidewalk is lined with skinny leafless trees, shrubs and disconnected tiles of brownish-yellow grass. In the distance, the silhouettes of newly built residential towers and half-finished office buildings imply a bustling future, but for the moment the area exists in a kind of temporal limbo – its past abandoned, its future not yet arrived. 

The museum, a three-story, 30,000-square-metre block positioned on the plaza's northwestern edge, conveys the opposite. On approach, its form looks haphazard. It is apparently a box, but its sides are skewed and large chunks are missing. Its materials are inconsistent and ill-fitting. The facade is pocked with small, arbitrarily arranged windows that reveal nothing of the building's contents. 

Most of the Ningbo Museum’s exterior is composed of debris collected from destruction sites around the region. Wa pan is a building style that is capable of accommodating a seemingly unlimited variety of source material, a system perfectly suited to the ill-fitting, mismatched pieces with which Wang had to work. Though he had used this technique previously in his campus for China Academy of Arts in Hangzhou, the Ningbo Museum offered the first chance to apply wa pan in its place of origin.

“Only the craftsmen in this area know how to do this,” Wang told McGetrick. “But if we don’t use it in modern architecture I think the craftsmen will forget how to do it. When we started, many couldn’t remember, so we had to use photos and teach them again.” He looked over the empty streets and endangered farmland that surrounds the museum and added, “We call this a ‘no memory area’. In this huge district I found only one traditional village that was intact, and maybe next year it will also be demolished. There is no tradition here. I designed this to try to bring their memory back.”

Video: Wang Shu – Ningbo History Museum

Cite: profile, V. (2017). Ningbo 2015 - Ningbo History Museum. [online] Available at: [Accessed 10 Nov. 2017]. (2017). Ningbo History Museum. [online] Available at: [Accessed 10 Nov. 2017].

Hunter, B., uk, B., wagner, V., adkins, G., Rauchman, j., Chism, A. and page, w. (2017). Architecture | Wang Shu's Ningbo Museum | CFile - Contemporary Ceramic Art + Design. [online] CFile - Contemporary Ceramic Art + Design. Available at: [Accessed 10 Nov. 2017].

Leave a Reply