All images courtesy of Playze and Schmidhuber
The creative minds of Playze and Schmidhuber have collaborated for the ‘urban planning exhibition centre’ in China. The facility anchors the district of Ningbo eastern new city: a fresh suburban swath of equal parts high-rise and high-way, still searching for its own identity. Urbanistically speaking, the project aims to bring intimacy to these wild new spaces. The faceted perimeter blends horizontally into its context, reacting and sometimes mirroring existing site conditions. The four large entrances lead to a lobby space and multi-story atrium. A circular passage brings visitors to and from a public roof-terrace, where they bear first witness to the very issues being debated and exhibited below. The loop’s different coves and mounds invite guests to interact with the building both during the day and at night.
Cai Dai Wu Dao is a Chinese ribbon dance that dates back to the Han Dynasty. A professional dancer can animate complex figures like wandering dragons in a single movement. Originally performed only for royalty, it emerged as an important medium for communication between different social classes. Influenced by this ancient art form, the program, structure, and envelope are woven together as a ribbon. Beginning at ground level, the band wraps around the rooms, defining the volume and circulation. It guides visitors through the interior, controls light, opens to views of the surroundings. It also links elements into a fluid sequence of space—a deliberate break from more conventional, static, ‘white box’ museums. Instead, there are no clear physical boundaries—they are blended together. This gesture merges the visitor’s awareness of the architecture, the exhibitions, the different people and social classes into a contiguous, flowing experience.
Ningbo has a rich history in ceramic production. It was here that the so-called ‘ceramic road’ began, and the metropolis played an important role in the national and international trade of ceramics throughout the civilization’s reign. That being said, the use of the material throughout the façade is not simply an homage to the local traditions, but its textured and glazed surfaces also create ephemeral reflections of surrounding cityscape. These representations animate the exterior with varying intensity depending on time of day, season, and weather.
From a distance, the centre is like a beacon, an attractor. With its form and visual qualities, the aesthetic modulates with its context. Up close, this effect is also applied in the deployment of the outer system and details. the screen gradually shifts between being nearly transparent to fully opaque, according to program needs and to the surroundings. Around the exhibition areas, the tiles overlap tightly, opening up in gathering areas to allow ample daylight and scenic views. At night, the pattern glows as shadows populate the façade’s curved apertures.