The Bao’an Art and Culture Centre is the winning design by Coldefy and Associates and ECADI to augment the cultural importance of the city of Shenzhen

Project Credit:
Project Name: Bao’an art and culture center
Location:  Shenzhen, China
Building type: Museum, art galleries, theatre, public services and shops
Net surface area: 84,700 m²
Status: Winner of the 2016 competition
Client: Government of Bao’an District
Teams: Coldefy & Associates Architectes Urbanistes – ECADI

Led by Thomas Coldefy and Isabel Van Haute, the French design firm Coldefy & Associates Architectes Urbanistes, in collaboration with ECADI, has won an international competition to create a cultural centre spanning over 80,000 sq.m, by the city of Shenzhen. Housing around 20 million residents, the city is a setting of a developing society, vivacious modernism and a thriving, progressive art. The structure will be situated in the city’s historic area, adding on to the significance of the place. Coldefy & Associates had already extended their works outside France, remarkably with the construction of the Hong Kong Design Institute in 2011.

Winning the global competition involving 70 architects and a jury eager to bestow the district of Bao’an with a cultural space welcoming everyone, Coldefy & Associates proposed this sculptural building with various public facilities. This project is a part of a series of varied international developments that aim to reinforce Shenzhen’s ambitions to become a major creation and design centre. With this structure, the teams of Thomas Coldefy and Isabel Van Haute have embodied the architectural vision that the municipality aspires to give the vibrant district of Bao’an. Through its various services for the people, the district has become a leading entity in the region’s current development.

The project visualized by Coldefy and Associates is based on the lines of accessibility, culture for all and an optimized environment. The building, with its expansive spaces, is envisioned as a ‘living canvas’ where the works of art escape the traditional bounds of exhibition halls. The multi-faceted structure intends to become a series of spaces that encourages a dialogue between the artists, their modern art and the much-involved public. The large, sculpted split in the building embodies the concept of the building opening up to the city and its residents; the split giving the building a sense of permeability that breaks the institutional codes. 2

3The project is situated in the heart of Bao’an, on the east side of the cultural pedestrian zone. The structure’s design allows the public spaces to run through the building, making the city a part of the building rather than skirting it. The layout exemplifies a Chinese character in its design, using a few simple forms to demonstrate a thought, an idea and a symbolic place. The building’s location, in near future, will allow it a vital place in the upcoming cultural trends and will bolster its interaction with the residents, city and the sea.

4The proposed cultural centre consists of three independent entities: a museum, an art gallery and an exhibition hall. The ground floor houses the City Lobby serving the shops and metro; linking the three parts. On the higher level is the Sky Lobby, a ‘floating’ public area with cultural activities alongside plant-filled spaces.

The layout is thus designed from within, allowing a shift in the volumes. As a complement to the art work within, the sculpted layout makes way for new vantage points over Shenzhen, the bay and the tower blocks of Bao’an, welcoming the urban environment and the citizens to move into the ‘canvas’ and give it life.5

The spatial design of the building is also aimed at connecting the interiors of the structure with its exteriors; a constant dialogue between the two through a visual and a tactile relationship. Situated amongst the residential blocks and the shopping street, next to the metro and the main traffic routes, a garden is designed to surround the structure and become the entrance space for the public. Although this area is separated from the artistic programme, it leads towards a continuous pathway to culture that is no longer confined to the exhibition rooms. In the heart of the structure, the ‘canvas’ envisioned splits up, giving way to the large glazed hall on the upper level, providing panoramic views of the city.

On the higher levels, people can engage in public talks and enjoy a new form of transparency uniting the human, city and plant aspects of the region. The terraces and bridges maintain a constant visual connection between the visitors, the cultural centre’s employees, the art work and the surrounding neighbourhood.


The climate of Shenzhen has influenced the layout of the entire building. The volumes are optimized to reduce the self-imposed shadow. The capacious internal courtyards encourage wind circulation, creating a pleasing micro-climate in and around the space. The green roof is designed in a way to harvest rainwater and incorporate a photo-voltaic electricity production facility, generating a multi-level autonomous system. The facade of the building is made of glass, marble and translucent marble that lets soft light pass through. This facade also acts like a buffer zone between the interiors of the building and its outer environment, reducing urban noise and limiting thermal exchange.

7Traditional Layout of a cultural building                                 Innovative Strategy designed by Coldefy & Associates and ECADI
Coldefy & Associates Architectes Urbanistes Team

– Tanvi Naik, Volume Zero.

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