UCCA Center for Contemporary Art today unveiled the architectural regeneration of its flagship museum, UCCA Beijing, revealing a new façade, entrance, lobby, galleries, children’s education space, store, and café. Designed by renowned Dutch architecture firm OMA, this regeneration of UCCA’s Main Hall marks a milestone in UCCA’s institutional history, and will highlight—as never before—the museum’s open, public-facing nature, and its commitment to an ever-widening viewing public. It is the second project, after the China Central Television Headquarters, that OMA, the firm founded by Rem Koolhaas, has realized in Beijing. The regeneration of UCCA was led by OMA partner Chris van Duijn and associate-in-charge Inge Goudsmit.
Since its founding in 2007, UCCA has been a landmark at the heart of 798—both a symbol of, and a driving force behind, the development of China’s contemporary art scene. Ironically, given the stature and centrality of the institution, its entrance was never prominent, wedged into a dark corridor running through a narrow four-story Slab, occupied by a range of commercial tenants. The Slab is now fully incorporated into UCCA’s campus, adding 1800 square meters to its total area. Set to open in Spring 2019, it will contain staff offices as well as the flagship location of UCCA Kids. The Slab has been refaced with a vibrant red stucco and gridded black windows. Its ground floor walls demolished, leaving only supporting columns, the building appears to float above the surrounding street, as if suspended atop the glass façade that elegantly curves and folds around the columns. Engineered by the VS-A.HK, this glass façade—its intricate, rippled contours a feat of craftsmanship—runs for nearly 70 meters, offering total visibility to the wide range of activities that happen inside.
UCCA’s entrance is now visible from all angles, a large set of steel doors at the center of the glass curtain wall, demarcated by three large banners flying above. Just inside, a flight of steps is intersected by the façade, bridging the museum’s interior and exterior, and serving as a visual relay between UCCA’s surroundings and its reception area. These steps will host public programs and offer a space for visitors to convene and relax. Inside the museum, the area underneath the steps forms a sheltered space where children and school groups can participate in workshops, while a second, parallel staircase provides easy access to the second level of both the Main Hall and the Slab, creating a seamless link between the ground floor public areas and the event spaces, children’s center, and forthcoming research library upstairs.
Outside, a generous forecourt and intricately curated landscape of seasonal trees and seating, designed by landscape architects Valeche Studio, serve as a public commons, nestled between the main thoroughfare of the 798 Art District and the museum building. Visitors approaching UCCA will move along a visual gradient that runs inward from the street toward the museum, as the paving of the forecourt and the ground floor of the Slab turns from light to dark gray, finally crossing a steel threshold and entering into the Main Hall, the factory chamber which holds the galleries. Inside the Main Hall, a spacious new front desk greets visitors, and the areas formerly known as the Lobby, Long Gallery, Nave and Atrium have been connected into a more unified space which can be configured for different exhibitions and programs. This arrangement has created a clear route—visual and physical—that spans the distance between the front desk, the galleries, and the auditorium, now reclad in a light polycarbonate. Nearby, a new flagship location for UCCA Store and a café provide new amenities for visitors.
These changes reflect on these buildings’ complex history, evolving from industrial, to creative, and finally institutional use in the six decades since their construction. They effect a thorough reconfiguration of UCCA Beijing’s spaces, as well as a deepening of the ideals that have animated it since its inception: generosity, transparency, and openness to communities of every background, who come to question, explore, and learn through art.
Dulux provides environmentally friendly solution for painting the walls of the newly renovated UCCA; BenQ provides museum video support; and 3M China Limited provides a clean drinking water guarantee.