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Aranya Art Center

Pedro Pegenaute

There is a pond in the art center.

There is quite a strange sensation in watching the new Pedro Pegenaute's video for the recently completed "Aranya Art Center" by Neri&HU in the coastal city of Qinhuangdao in Northern China and it is given by the sharp contrast between the big and dark concrete blocks that former its façade and the picturesque architecture of the seaside resort located on the Gold Coast.

So much as "a solid rock sitting firmly in the shifting environment", as Neri & Hu wanted the art center to be described, the architecture stands in the center of the famous harbor, mighty and compact in comparison to the fragile and western-looking appearance of the condos and portico that surround the structure.
The Aranya Art Center façade is occasionally punctuated by windows with bronze surrounds, to allow light in, but it is mostly a concrete simple-box style looking structure, with external space for the people to sit and hang around.

But, once inside, we see that the very protagonist of the center is a void: a conical shaped space intended for shows and performances. A striking feature, with its white walls and grey slabs of concrete, that immediately catches one's attention. It is from here that Pedro Pegenaute decided to start to film the new cultural center, designed by the Shanghai-based architectural firm. Both seen from above and from below, the courtyard and its circular oculus are a remarkable feature for this kind of architecture. The use of concrete provides it with a sleek look and sophisticated atmosphere. And it is this kind of vibration that Pegenaute captured in his video.

All the art center's activities are arranged around it: both the building's galleries, the entrance, cafe, and a multi-functional gallery are on the ground floor, with five gallery spaces on the floors above and a viewing platform on the roof.

What's more - and what’s is central to this architecture - is that the courtyard is accessible to the passers-by and meant to be a gathering space for the people living in the area. A few weeks ago, we presented the 2016 Shangai Theatre by the Shanghai-based Neri & Hu and we can see how also here the architects focused on the relationship between interiors and exteriors, to produce a new public space for the community they are designing for.

When not being used for performances, this stepped space can be filled with water to transform it into a pond: in considerating the spiritual nature of residents, particularly strong for the inhabitant of the area, Neri & Hu wanted the place to maintain a clear relationship with the environment it is located in.
"Drawing inspiration from the seasonal ocean waters nearby – azure and calm in the summers and splintered ice through winter – the building design attempts to encapsulate the natural wonder of water at its core," said Neri&Hu.

(Story by Sara Marzullo, The Architecture Player)


Architect:Neri & Hu
Mentioned project:Aranya Art Center (2019)
Project location: Qinhuangdao, China

China 2019
Duration: 6'35"