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A Subterranean Museum Built Beneath The Sand Dunes In China

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UCCA Dune
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In Qinhuangdao, China, Beijing-based firm OPEN Architecture has designed ‘UCCA Dune’, a museum whose undulating form sits submerged beneath the sand dunes, beside the Bohai Sea.

The architects describe ‘UCCA Dune’ as “a return to primal and timeless forms of space”: swathed by folds of the surrounding landscape, the underground museum has an organic composition that seems to mimic caves, animal burrows, or the paths of root systems. The subterranean nature of the 930 square meter building was inspired by children’s play at the beach; namely, the hours are spent digging tirelessly in the sand dunes. Such ‘digging’, the architects explain, “creates a series of interconnected, organically shaped spaces which, enveloped by sand, resemble caves—the primeval home of man, whose walls were once a canvas for some of humanity’s earliest works of art.”

These connecting sections of the museum seem to bloom from one another, their art-adorned interiors feature tunnel windows that offer different perspectives of the sea and the sky. The decision of Ullens Center for Contemporary Art and OPEN Architecture to build beneath the ground, as opposed to above, was born from a reverence for nature and a collective desire to preserve the site’s original composition. “Because of the museum, these sand dunes will be preserved instead of leveled to make space for ocean-view real estate developments,” the architects explain, “as has happened to many other dunes along the shore.”

“Because of the museum, these sand dunes will be preserved instead of leveled to make space for ocean-view real estate”
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All images © Qingshan Wu and Nan Ni