2019 Shanghai Design Awards

spaces, objects, visual, graphic, digital & experience design, design champion, best studio & best start-up, plus over 40 specialist categories

accelerate transformation, celebrate courage, growing demand for design

Image Credit : Su Chen


Project Overview

Central Ring Art Gallery is a small art district where art meets the public. It is one the first private art museum campuses in Anhui province. We envision it as a must-visit rendezvous in Hefei, the capital of Anhui, a second-tier city in eastern China. Located in the middle of a typical urban jungle encompassed by high-rises, the campus is an urban retreat in the concrete forest.

After careful observation and surveying of the site, we propose the introduction of ‘man-made nature’ in this new urban area that is characterized by typical high-density development and widened vehicular roads. The ‘man-made nature’ becomes cherry blossoms, an art utopia, an oasis, and an urban fantasy. Landscape is everything; even the building itself becomes part of the landscape. Central Ring Art Gallery is a platform that accommodates art and art activities in a venue that art and nature juxtapose, flow and connect. Art becomes an integral part of nature.

We urge the space being experienced through promenade. We design cues to slow people down and encourage them to linger and appreciate the things happening around them while contemplating on art and nature at multiple levels.

Project Commissioner

Central Ring Real Estate Group

Project Creator

Studio A+


Min Wang, Xin Jing, Mei Ding, Yuwei Wei, Hui Li, Wenwen Zhang, etc

Project Brief

The Gallery radiates its unique energy to the surrounding neighborhoods. Its amicable social impact is reflected in the design, the making and the revealing process.

The main gallery building stands afloat, giving way to the landscape to be continuous and extending throughout the site. As a result, the architecture becomes part of the landscape, allowing opportunities for outdoor and semi-outdoor spaces to host various art activities.

Two exhibition spaces, big and small, are installed within the main building with openings to the sky. Space around these two ‘cubes’ is opened-up in a way that the facade is highly permeable; the indoor and the outdoor connect via the building skin. The experience of walking along these hallways is liminal. People can enjoy both the indoor informal art display and the nature beyond.

The exterior skin wrapping around the main building mass is white with a tint of gray. Pink, yellow and green are applied to interior skin to echo the picturesque landscape of the region in spring: pink for cherry blossom, yellow for rape flower and green for young grass or leaves. Exhibition halls are well-lit white cubes to ensure a simple background for artworks displayed. In spaces of movement such as the vertical core and the walkways colors are applied. People come in and out and become parts of the drama. Colors permeate through the architectural skin and at night illuminate from inside out, adding more mysteriousness.

Project Innovation/Need

Landscape design is the guiding principal of this proposal. All other considerations come after it. Architecture becomes a part of the larger landscape picture. Instead of prioritizing architecture and making landscape secondary - what we normally tend to do in the architectural design industry, in this project we explore a possibility of making landscape primary.

Back in 2008 when this project was initiated, it was rare for real estate developers to commission art galleries. From an investment point of view, gallery is not considered as a great option. Our client is visionary in a sense that he sees the social value of art. He has always had an interest in promoting art and wanting to support local artists.

It is a socially responsible design project. Efforts are made to make the project more ethical and socially just. The construction workers were invited as guests at the opening ceremony, and they revealed a public art project in which they were depicted in real life size sculptures standing on the lawn in the back yard. It was sentimental and astonishing. This public art is a way to give dignity and pay the workers with respect as their labor is appreciated in the process of making the project happen.

The design, completed in 2008, gets constructed 11 years after. The campus will become an integral part of the urban fabric, an active art district and a popular site of public recreation.

Design Challenge

Before working with us, the client visited more than 20 design institutions to consult on this project however was not satisfied. When we were confronted with this design opportunity, we had doubts. Although the entire area was flat and blank, and had almost none development back then, we understood that there will be high-rises on both side of the site according to the future plan. When the client wished for a landmark, we truly hesitated at the beginning because the gallery is incomparable with the surrounding future neighbors in terms of height and size. We have to think out of the box. In future concrete jungles, what will make it valuable is a piece of green land, a cherry blossom garden, a place where people can enjoy nature and art at the same time. We became convinced of this art initiative that finally takes form in a landscape-led design.

In order to give way for the continuous landscape, the building floats above the ground. The structure with big span brought an engineering challenge. We see it both a challenge and an opportunity. Such constraints gave rise to the creation of semi-outdoor areas for art and recreational activities.

We faced struggles from budget limitation as well as planning regulations. The project has taken years to come to realization.


A large green roof is installed to mitigate stormwater, reduce solar heat as well as making available more outdoor recreational space. From the conceptual level, the green roof ties the architecture to the landscape, making them a cohesive piece. By uplifting the building from ground, providing more shading, air circulates well thus cooling the place down on hot days. The semi-outdoor space becomes very popular for people to hang out. The water feature on the ground level collects rainwater, recycles it for irrigation and production of fog during the summer. Children especially love running around and play near water. Microclimates are designed throughout the site to provide comfort and to invite people to stay. People of all ages are welcome to enjoy the space.

This award celebrates the design process and product of planning, designing and constructing form, space and ambience that reflect functional, technical, social, and aesthetic considerations. Consideration given for material selection, technology, light and shadow. 
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