Ordos Museum

January 16, 2012 /

Kang Ba Shi City, Inner Mongolia, China

ordos_1.jpgPhoto: Iwan Baan

Located in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, the Ordos Museum is a crossroads for a community working to interpret its local traditions in a new urban context.

The project was first envisioned six years ago, in the then-desert wilderness of Inner Mongolia, when the municipal government of Ordos commissioned MAD to design a museum for the unbuilt metropolis. Amidst the controversy surrounding the planned city, it became evident that the museum for Ordos must navigate the many contradictions that emerge when local culture meets with visions of the future city.

Inspired by Buckminster Fuller's "Manhattan Dome," MAD conceived of a futuristic shell to protect the cultural history of the region and refute the rational new city outside. Encapsulated by a sinuous facade, the museum sits upon sloping hills - a gesture to the recent desert past and now a favorite gathering place for local children and families.

Photo: Iwan Baan
Photo: Iwan Baan

Upon entering the atrium, a brighter, more complex world unfolds. A canyon-like corridor connects the east and west entrances, allowing the space to become an open extension of the outer urban space.  The interior is divided into several exhibition halls, defined by continuous curvilinear walls, all opening open onto the shared public space that runs through the museum.

Photo: Iwan Baan
Photo: Iwan Baan
Photo: Iwan Baan
The glazed roof draws light into this environment, which is then channeled through the building by the luminescent walls, whilst the louvers allow for natural ventilation. Visitors meander through the space as if in the future - yet eternal- Gobi desert.

Photo: Iwan Baan
Photo: Iwan Baan
Photo: Iwan Baan
Photo: Iwan Baan
Photo: Iwan Baan

We decided to design an irregular nucleus for the new town, a building divided into several exhibition halls, with white curvilinear walls inspired by natural lava texture, creating amazement and surprise for visitors. The interior becomes an inner scenery completely different from the outside. A large public space with natural ventilation, where sun light penetrates the halls directly through the ceiling, makes you feel like entering a brand new world. The museum is enwrapped in reflective metal shutters, such shutters we hope, would transform and reflect the ugliness or whatever appeals of the reality from of the surroundings.


The Museum is the first of seven cultural buildings in the Masterplan by MAD to establish a new contemporary international urban district within the central area of Kang Ba Shi city, Erdos. Representing the Mongolian environment, cultural characters, and the advanced technology these buildings form a brand new image for the whole region, contemporary and dynamic.

Image courtesy MAD Architects
Image courtesy MAD Architects
Image courtesy MAD Architects
Image courtesy MAD Architects
Image courtesy MAD Architects

Facts about Ordos Museum

Site Area:

27,760 m2
Building Area: 41, 227 m2

MAD Architects


Design Team:

Shang Li
Andrew C. Bryant
Howard Jiho Kim
Matthias Helmreich
Linda Stannieder
Zheng Tao
Qin Lichao
Sun Jieming
Yin Zhao
Du Zhijian
Yuan Zhongwei
Yuan Ta
Xie Xinyu
Liu Weiwei
Xiang Ling
Felipe Escudero
Sophia Tang
Diego Perez
Art Terry
Jtravis B Russett
Dustin Harris

Associate Engineers:

China Institute of Building Standard Design & Research

Mechanical Engineer: 

The Institute of Shanxi Architectural Design and Research

Façade/cladding Consultants:

SuP Ingenieure GmbH, Melendez & Dickinson Architects

Construction Contractor:

Huhehaote construction Co., Ltd

Façade Contractor:

Zhuhai King Glass En

Ma Yansong
Yosuke Hayano
Dang Qun

Photographed by Iwan Baan

Last updated: December 19, 2013

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