Suzhou Museum: it’s all-white

I.M Pei is probably the only famous Chinese architect of the modern era.  He won the Pritzker Prize (they call it the Nobel Prize of Architecture) and is best known for designing the glass pyramids in front of the Louvre in Paris.   I am not really fan, but to find one of his buildings in the middle of Suzhou’s historic canal district got me a little excited.

Pei is, like, really old now and this was his last commission before retirement.  It must have been a very meaningful one for the man himself: his best known Chinese project and in his family’s home town no less.   It is obvious that the building was inspired by its surrounding context (or perhaps by restrictive planning guidelines), creating an ensemble of courtyards and pitched roofs and white painted walls.

It’s an unfair comparison I know, but I prefer the older and more authentic parts of the city. Here’s a little compare-and-contrast …







The internal environment was warm (yay! aircon!) but the building itself left me a bit cold.

I don’t mind modern buildings.  In fact, I like them a lot.  I just found that Pei’s approach is to focus on the replication of colours and materials, rather than the quality and feeling of spaces.  The building is good, but not amazing.


6 Responses to Suzhou Museum: it’s all-white

  1. luKe says:

    A nice study, Doctor.

  2. Shan says:

    Very cool break down, it feels as if you planned the photos for your blog before you went there. I’ve never seen it in this context and certainly not with ‘before and after’ style photos, you’ve made me like it more which I always have. I quite like it for the finer details in the concealed air-con systems, the tiling lines that line up with EVERYTHING. On a higher level, I liked it for being simplistic in such a busy city its like a small and quiet haven, i left wanting more or perhaps just a bigger building. Then again, i am just an Inferior Designer.

    • You know what; your comments (and those of another of our collaegues) have made me reconsider my reaction to the building. It is actually a very good building, and I agree that its simplicity (as a whole, but also in detail) is particularly successful. It was a really relaxing place to be.
      The Doctor can listen and learn. The Doctor is not fixed. The Doctor thanks you for your opinions.

  3. Pingback: My first year in Shangers | That Look Crayzy!

  4. Adina West says:

    I think the compare and contrast calls for an emotional response rather than a purely aesthetic one. Aesthetically there’s nothing wrong with Pei’s building design – but it’s very clean and sterile. The photos of old Suzhou you’ve taken in contrast have a great deal of subtext; lives lived, summers and winters endured…the buildings, cobblestoned alleys and even a peeling painted wall have their own much shabbier beauty, enriched by the knowledge of the years it has taken for them to reach this point.

    Which of the two a person prefers can never be anything other than a subjective decision (in my subjective opinion), keeping in mind that Pei could not have truly re-created the worn and faded appeal of the real Suzhou even if he’d wanted to.

    Maybe there’s something to be said for history after all.


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