Studio Zhu-Pei has realized the Imperial Kiln Museum on a plot of land of around 10,000 square meters in the center of the historic district, right next to the imperial furnace, which is dedicated to the history of ceramics in Jingdezhen, China.
The complex consists of several differently shaped brick vaults, which were carefully integrated into the existing ruins of older buildings - some of which only came to light during construction. According to the architect, the massive arches embody an abstract combination of the traditional kiln with the “smoothness” of China.
On the ground floor, the foyer opens up to the ruins park with an inviting gesture to lure visitors into the museum. From here you can descend a flight of stairs into five sunken courtyards, each representing a different theme: gold, wood, water, fire and earth. While the vaults above suggest a certain openness and accessibility through their interplay between indoor and outdoor space, the levels below appear reserved and mysterious. Here are the hidden treasures of the ruins, excavated relics from the imperial era.
Based on the local building culture, both recycled and new bricks were used. Since the kilns have to be replaced every two to three years in order to be able to guarantee the required thermal output, it is common practice in Jingdezhen to reuse the old kiln bricks for buildings of all kinds.
Both Jingdezhen Imperial Kiln Museum's design and contents pay homage to the city's history of making ceramics, for which it has been dubbed as the world's "porcelain capital". It is positioned adjacent to some of the city's imperial kiln ruins, which date back to the Ming Dynasty and were once used to produce porcelain for the imperial family. "Jingdezhen is known as the porcelain capital of the world because it has been producing pottery for 1,700 years," explained the Beijing studio.
The museum plan is aligned along the street grid of the ancient city, welcoming visitors from Imperial kiln relic park forested with a green canopy that oozes into the Museum’s foyer. The vaults mimic the ruins by sinking below the street level, heralding a strategy to adapt to the involved site while instilling intimacy in the interior crevasses.
The Imperial Kiln Museum has an exquisite lustre that sparks spiritual and physical synapses through its design membranes. As you walk through the vaults that showcases unearthed relics and holes resembling cigars, they infuse a momentary gleam on the visitor’s mind to experience such an architectural feat that sends a spine-tingling vibrancy to time and stories that have echoed long ago.