Chengdu’s Natural History Museum Competition


Winning design courtesy Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects (All images © Steelblue)


Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects (PCP) in collaboration with China Southwest Architectural Design and Research Institute Corp Ltd. has prevailed over a strong field to win the competition for a Natural History Museum in Chengdu, China. The other finalists included Zaha Hadid Architects, Sutherland Hussey Harris, Nihon Sekkei, Valode & Pistre, and FUKSAS.


   Although the project’s location of this project is in Chengdu, in a central region of China far from the coastal cities where we are used to seeing competitions for prestigious projects, it is no small community, having upwards of 10 million inhabitants and serving as the urban capital of Sichuan province. Moreover, the competition has brought our attention to the fact that not all hi-tech research is taking place in Shanghai, Beijing or Shenzhen—all located on or near the Pacific Ocean—but in this far-flung city in the interior. In light of this, the interest of Fortune 500 companies in Chengdu as a prime location could only lead to the next step for the community—raising its cultural profile.

 Image © Steelblue


   PCP’s winning concept was based at least partially on the geography of the region. Of the design elements in the PCP presentation, the fascinating model really tells us much about the approach and intent of the team. It was inspired by the natural geological features found in the Sichuan Basin, going back to the shifting tectonic plates resulting from volcanic activity. From that we encounter a design, which suggests dislocation, but is still connected logically via a series of pathways. Museumgoers who often go through an overload effect in some museums will not encounter that here. Although probably not in the minds of the designers here, the somewhat fragmented nature of the complex can at least provide some respite visually from the need to do it all at once.


   For many who never gave Chengdu a second thought about placing it on their itinerary, other than for business purposes, it may soon be time to reconsider. Completion is scheduled for 2021.


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Russian Open Competition for Alternative Layout Design in Standard Housing

1st category prize entry by AKVS (Image courtesy STRELKA-KB, © AKVS Architecture)



Of all the nations that had been part of the Soviet Bloc after World War II, only the Russian Federation itself has lagged behind most of its neighbors in the design and construction of affordable housing. During that post-Cold War period, housing construction in cities such as Moscow struggled to keep up with demand. The result of this has been some of the most crowded urban conditions in Europe. Privacy has been an issue, whereby more than one family has oftentimes occupied a small apartment, possibly only separated by a curtain. Thus, in this housing competition, where the focus was primarily on layout design, it was not unusual to see how the various competitors addressed this issue.



According to the competition brief, the aim of the competition was “to create comfortable living environments for Russian citizens. It challenged contestants to design planning layouts for five apartments of a medium size and five apartments of a large size, for three out of four proposed building types.”


Image courtesy STRELKA-KB


Here it is worth noting that the anticipated size of a studio apartment for the purposes of this competition was between 225-270 sq ft, whereas the average studio (one-room) apartment in the U.S. is between 500-600 sq ft. Thus, all of the other models were also smaller than one would find in the West. But everything being relative, apartments based on these models would be a marked improvement in many respects for the average Russian consumer.


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