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Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.

National Museum of China in Beijing, China by GMP Architect

April 5th, 2011 by Sumit Singhal

The conversion and extension of the Chinese National Museum combines the former Chinese History Museum with the Chinese Revolutionary Museum. Completed in 1959 as one of ten important public buildings in Tian’anmen Square, in direct proximity to the Forbidden City, the museum still constitutes a milestone in history of modern Chinese architecture.

Entrance of the National Museum of China

  • Architects: GMP Architect
  • Project: National Museum of China
  • Location: Beijing, China
  • Client: National Museum of China
  • Design: Meinhard von Gerkan and Stephan Schütz with Stephan Rewolle and Doris Schäffler

Entrance of the National Museum of China

  • Design staff: Gregor Hoheisel, Katrin Kanus, Ralf Sieber, Du Peng, Chunsong Dong
  • Revised Design: Meinhard von Gerkan and Stephan Schütz with Stephan Rewolle
  • Project Leaders: Matthias Wiegelmann with Patrick Pfleiderer
  • Structural engineering schlaich bergermann und partner, Stuttgart; CABR, Beijing
  • Electrical Engineering: CABR
  • Landscaping: RLA Rehwaldt Landscape Architects, Dresden / Beijing
  • Event Technology: ADA Acoustic Design Ahnert, Berlin
  • Lighting Design: conceptlicht GmbH, Traunreut, TsingHua Design Institute, Beijing
  • Façade: SuP Ingenieure GmbH, Darmstadt / Beijing
  • Acoustics: Müller-BBM Group and ADA Acoustic Design Ahnert
  • Chinese partner firm: CABR (Chinese Academy of Building Research), Beijing
  • Project Management: Beijing Guojin Consultants Co., Ltd., Beijing
  • Staff: Bao Wei, Johanna Enzinger, Anna Bulanda-J., Kong Jing, Andreas Goetze, Guo Fuhui, Mulyanto, Chen Yue, Zheng Xin, Gao Hua, Xing Jiuzhou, Helga Reimund, Tobias Keyl, Christian Dorndorf, Annette Loeber, Verena Fischbach, Jiang LinLin, Liu Yan, Mehrafarin Ruzbehi, Yoko Uraji, Lu Han, Xia Lin, Tian Jinghai, Uli Bachmann, Ajda Guelbahar, Iris Belle, Sabine Stage

Detail of the Eastern Facade

Key data of the building

  • Total floor space: 191,900 m²
  • Total floor space of existing building: 35,000 m²
  • New floor space: 156,900 m²
  • Overall length/breadth: 330 m × 204 m
  • Floors: 7 (5 above ground, 2 below)
  • Exhibition space: 49 rooms
  • Size of exhibition rooms: 500–2,000 m²
  • Height of exhibition rooms: 5.25–12 m

The colonnades and Window Styles


  • Total area/length/breadth: 8,840 m² / 260 m / 34 m
  • Height: 27 m
  • Construction costs: 2.5 bn / US $ 380 m

Project schedule

  • Bids invited: August 2004
  • Revisions commenced: Autumn 2005
  • Foundation stone laid: March 2007
  • Museum completed: 1st March 2011

Western Entrance Hall

The museum in operation

  • the National Museum can accommodate up to 19,000 visitors at once
  • up to 30,000 people a day can visit the National Museum
  • the Forum can hold up to 14,000 visitors at once
  • the National Museum owns over a million exhibits
  • over ten thematic exhibitions on different aspects of art and international
  • exchange exhibitions can be put on in parallel

Western View Inside the Forum

Other areas

  • Size of auditorium (cinema): 300 m²
  • Seating capacity: 264
  • Size of screen: 12 × 6 m
  • Seating capacity: 714

Staircase inside the Forum


  • Exterior: Light Chinese granite stone, sparkling steel and glass facade
  • Interior: Light Chinese granite stone, black cherry panelling, sparkling and
  • Bronze: coloured aluminium cladding, patinated bronze, red fabric

The Forum Helps Visitors to Orientate


At all cardinal points. Visitors to the museum enter from the west and north. The east entrance leads to the concert auditorium and cinema. The south entrance is for staff. Deliveries and the entrance/exit to parking are in the NE/SE corners. The museum can be reached by metro, bus and car.

The Walls of the Central Hall are covered with Red Fabric

Outline schemes for the conversion and extension project were invited from ten international architectural firms, the proposal by architects von Gerkan, Marg and Partners (gmp) together with CABR of Beijing being adjudged preferred bidder, ahead of Foster and Partners, Kohn Pedersen Fox, OMA and Herzog & de Meuron etc.

VIP Area

The original submission by gmp envisaged gutting the existing museum. The central block would be removed, and the large space thereby created spanned by a bronze flying roof linking the old building and the extension. The flying roof was planned to house the main exhibition on Chinese history, with a direct view towards the sights of the city. Following a discussion with the client and Chinese architectural experts, this scheme was revised, with the aim of integrating more of the external impact of the old building in the new building, though without abolishing the immediately obvious distinction between old and new. This would allow the building itself to illustrate the continuity of history.

Central Hall offers 264 seats

The task was to combine the northern and southern wings into an integral complex of buildings by removing the central structure to make the Chinese National Museum.
The 260 m (850ft)-long hall acts as its central access area. It widens in the centre to embrace the existing central front entrance facing Tian’anmen Square. The ‘forum’ thus created acts as a vestibule and multifunctional events area, with all auxiliary service functions for the public attached – cafes and teahouses, bookshops and souvenir shops, and ticket offices and toilets.

The Entrance Doors, Stairwell

The classic tripartite division of China’s historical buildings governs the design of the ‘forum’ as well. A stone base serves as a platform for a wooden structure, with a coffered roof structure resting on a DCB layer on top of it. Despite the vastness of the ‘forum’, a homely atmosphere was sought, particularly in the harmonious use of materials – local granite on the ground floor and walls of the base layer and wooden cladding in the gallery area.

The Ornamentation of the Entrance Doors

The main entrance of the museum continues to be oriented towards the west, but, for the first time, the north and south entrances are linked via the ‘forum’. This space helps visitors to orientate, and all public areas of the almost 200,000 m² (2,066 m sq. ft) building are accessed from here.

The walls of the Central Hall are covered with Red Fabric

The dimensions of the ‘forum’ also relate to the sheer size of Tian’anmen Square and the size of the building itself. Around 8–10m people a year are expected to visit the National Museum. The architectural shape of the space is a contemporary interpretation of traditional elements of Chinese buildings. This is already evident in the west courtyard, accessed via broad steps reminiscent of the steps in front of the temple precincts in the Forbidden City just round the corner.

Two Green Courtyards Between the Old Building

The western entrance of the existing building, the Mengguobao facing Tian’anmen Square, is notable for its series of slender pillars, linked with each other by an entablature on the pattern of temple and palace architecture, with the roof structure resting on it. The west facade of the new building is planned analogously, the ‘dougong’ resting on its supports and carrying a prominent projecting roof. In historical Chinese architecture, the ‘dougong’ is a slightly projecting feature of bearings and joist ends.

Longitudinal Section

The materiality of the roof, which in the Forbidden City and the existing building consisted of glazed roofing shingle in imperial yellow, is re-interpreted with slightly curved, bronze-coloured metal plates. This meant the flighted roof typologies of the buildings in Tian’anmen Square and the Forbidden City were continued in the new building, yet interpreted in a contemporary fashion in the detail and materials.

Background the Forbidden City

The entrance doors to the new buildings consist of perforated bronze plates that filter incidental daylight and thus produce a muted atmosphere in the interior, such as is peculiar to traditional Chinese buildings with their ornamented window shutters. The motif of perforation was inspired by an ancient bronze panelone of the prize items among the one million works of art that make up the National Museum collection. This ornamentation also recurs in the forming of the balustrades in the interiors of the museum.

Floor Plan of Gallery

The north wing facing Chang’an Avenue contains the exhibition relating to the modern history of China, while the south wing houses the administration and library. In the new building, the main exhibition areas are distributed over four superimposed stories north and south of the central hall, where state receptions, banquets and similar events are held. Below the central hall is a cinema and a theater, an events room with fixed tiered seating installed, in which not only lectures but – with the planned acoustics – also classical concerts and other stage-based events can be performed. The base level and basements contain the museum’s workshops and laboratories, depositories and underground garage.


The harmonious use of materials in the interiors – wood, stone and glass – is found throughout the building, creating a natural feeling of identity and familiarity. Rooms of special significance are emphasized by the use of differentiated materials. Thus the central hall opposite the main west entrance and the theater are given red wall coverings that improve the acoustics. The Jade Hall above the ‘forum’ is notable for its backlit cast glass plates made of recycled material.

Sketch Design

The 191,900 m² National Museum is the largest museum in the world, its purpose being to act as a showcase for the history and art of one of the oldest cultures of mankind.

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Category: Museum

One Response to “National Museum of China in Beijing, China by GMP Architect”

  1. tina says:

    the best ever tanx

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