Yansong Ma's work extends beyond our cherished Absolute Towers. His engulfing architectural design is recognized worldwide, and he's not even 40 years old. This is part one in a series of his award-winning architectural and art works.
Imagine trekking through the Gobi desert; a dry, stormy chunk of land spanning across Mongolia and northern China. Then you see it: a giant, curvy spaceship-like globule with undulating aluminum panels.
At first you're taken aback by its amorphous qualities, but you're bewildered by its placement. Nothing surrounds this beautiful, ethereal structure, which is the Ordos Museum envisioned by Yansong Ma and MAD Architects in 2005.
“When we got to the site, it was like the middle of nowhere,” says Ma. “It was like an endless desert landscape.” He was thrilled that it looked like it came from outer space. “I wouldn’t want people to think I borrowed an architectural style, and I wanted to create a different type of architecture,” he said. “If they want to call it alien, I think that’s great. Nobody knows what’s from outer space, so that’s good.”
Ma strongly believes that the building should be without cultural identity. Whereas most architecture for new Chinese cities envision either modern or traditional styles, Ma sees the Ordos Museum as simply an abstract object that landed on the desert.
“I knew I was going to design a building in the centre of this new masterplan,” Ma said, “But I didn’t know what buildings would be around us.” Slowly but surely, the building fills with exhibitions of contemporary art and prehistoric artifacts from the area. The space is dedicated to the indigenous, nomadic, equine culture that exists in Ordos.
Placed in the district of Kangbashi, Ordos is expanding at a rapid pace; not only is it home to an increasing number of coal millionaires but it also produces China’s highest gross domestic product per capita. The town has one-sixth of all of China’s coal reserves and one-third of its natural gas reserves. But it's not filled to the brim with people yet.
Controversial Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei was selected to master-plan Ordos 100, a community of 100 parcels of land curated by Swiss architecture firm Herzog and de Meuron. The project remains unfinished while the Ordos Museum was completed in November 2011.
What is the future of Ordos itself? There are already hundreds of people congregating around the museum before sunset every day. “In the end, it will become a very successful public space,” Ma assures himself. When you think about it, it wouldn't be so bad to visit a museum surrounded by sand dunes.
- MAD's stunning video captures the link between Mongolia’s nomadic heritage and Ordos city’s urbanism
- DesignBoom: Fantastic high-resolution photos of Ordos
- An hour-long documentary on Ordos 100, the residential project masterplanned by noted Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei
- An interview with Yansong Ma about Ordos via Yale Daily News