Shangrao, China

In the vibrant springtime, our journey led us through lush, flourishing mountains, culminating in a serene valley with an east-west orientation. Nestled among rolling hills, we found a quaint village with stone and brick houses, overlooking terraced rice fields dotted with “field stones,” creating a picturesque landscape. This was the setting for the Sanqingshan Geological Museum. As we approached, we noticed the southern end of the site was elevated compared to the lower northern end. Two gentle streams meandered through the mountainous terrain. A majestic, century-old camphor tree stood at the heart of the site, its robust branches reaching northward, defying the land’s slope. The surrounding mountains, fields, trees, and stones left a lasting impression on us.

Credit: Sanqingshan Geological Museum / UAD | ArchDaily

Sanqing Mountain is renowned worldwide for its geological significance, being a world natural heritage site and a world geopark. It has experienced an incredible 1.4 billion years of geological transformations, including three major sea incursions and numerous tectonic movements. Sanqing Mountain is a prime example of the interaction between the Yangtze and Cathaysian paleo-plates, marking the boundary of the Eurasian and southeast Pacific Plates. It serves as a natural exhibit of granite micro-landforms and the dramatic effects of ancient plate collisions.

Credit: Sanqingshan Geological Museum / UAD | ArchDaily

The design of the Sanqingshan Geological Museum was inspired by these geological processes, reflecting the interaction of tectonic plates and the mountain’s distinct granite features with longitudinal and auxiliary transverse joints. The building’s architecture mimics geological forces, with bi-directional compression, longitudinal fissures, and segmented, sheared structures. It adapts to the south-north slope of the site and the contour changes, creating a half-enclosed space centered around the ancient camphor tree. The design also incorporates the site’s natural streams, leading them to a central square and connecting to the larger water system.

Inside, the architectural concept extends to the spatial layout. Visitors enter from the northeast, winding their way under the ancient tree to the museum entrance. The exhibition route takes them from the east section to the west, creating an immersive experience reminiscent of walking through Sanqing Mountain’s rocky terrain. The east section focuses on geology and landforms, while the west section houses temporary exhibitions and museum services. This layout ensures a coherent yet distinct experience for visitors.

Credit: Sanqingshan Geological Museum / UAD | ArchDaily

The external landscape design respects local traditions, using local materials for walls and terraces, and retaining the century-old camphor tree as a focal point. The design also integrates water as a key element, creating a versatile landscape that changes with the seasons. The outdoor areas include exhibition spaces, connecting the museum to its natural surroundings and enhancing the visitor experience.

In terms of construction, the museum primarily uses reinforced concrete frames and walls, with underhanging steel structures for bridges. The design incorporates glass-enclosed fissures, simulating geological forces and providing natural lighting. The outer facade features stones from nearby mountains, adding a rugged texture that echoes the geological theme. The square and terraces also utilize local stones, blending the new construction with the natural environment.

Credit: Sanqingshan Geological Museum / UAD | ArchDaily
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