Kengo Kuma's new Folk Art Museum draws on Hangzhou's local vernacular

China Academy of Arts in Hangzhou
The new Folk Art Museum cuts a distinct figure in the campus of the China Academy of Arts in Hangzhou
(Image credit: Eiichi Kano)

Located in the outskirts of Hangzhou, China's alluring green landscape of rolling hills and peaceful lakes, the dark, subtle, angular shapes of the striking new Folk Art Museum building are the latest addition to the China Academy of Arts grounds, courtesy of Japanese architect Kengo Kuma

Situated within the renowned school's campus, the project is set to carve meaningful relationships between visitors, displays and their environment. Its low, distinct outline is nestled into the sloped site - formerly a tea field - and resembles a group of gently angled pitched roofs. The arrangement cascades downwards, referencing through its geometry and composition local vernacular and construction techniques. 

Indeed, a sense of place and the site were important to this project; the architect was keen to 'design a museum from which the ground below can be felt', keeping the buildings low - they don't exceed two storeys in height. The cascading roof system allows the building to cleverly mitigate the site's irregularities, at the same time creating the appearance of a 'village', explain the architects. 

Kuma also worked with rich, local materials, such as cedar and reclaimed roof tiles used to cover old homes in the region, drawing even more parallels between his work and the area's traditional architecture. A stainless wire mesh on the facade, both holds the tiles - which vary in size - together and creates a pleasant screen for the building, which filters light and shadow, and controls views. 

The complex's generous museum display areas are complemented by state-of-the-art conference facilities, making the project's total surface reaching almost 5,000 sq m. 

sloped roofs

Designed by Kengo Kuma, the composition was concieved as a group of gently sloped roofs

(Image credit: Eiichi Kano)

area's traditional villages

When seen from a distance, the complex resembles one of the area's traditional villages

(Image credit: Eiichi Kano)

The complex of cascading roofs

The complex of cascading roofs is kept low to keep a relationship with the ground, explain the architects

(Image credit: Eiichi Kano)

reclaimed roof tiles from old homes from the region

Kuma and his team worked with local material where possible, such as a series of reclaimed roof tiles from old homes from the region

(Image credit: Eiichi Kano)

filtering light and views

A stainless wire mesh on the façade, holds the tiles together, while creates a pleasant screen, filtering light and views

(Image credit: Eiichi Kano)

Cedar wood

Cedar wood was also extensively used, mostly in the interiors

(Image credit: Eiichi Kano)

display areas

The museum features several unique display areas...

(Image credit: Eiichi Kano)

conference hall for the campus

..while it also hosts a state-of-the-art conference hall for the campus

(Image credit: Eiichi Kano)


Photography: Eiichi Kano

Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).