The ambitious project features 16 public pavilions that will transform the coastline along Haikou Bay and Jiangdong New Area on Hainan Island, with Ma Yansong’s curvy architectural creation the first to be completed and open to the public.
TEXT: Jacqueline Kot
IMAGES: Courtesy of MAD Architects
As lead curator, Weng Ling, who is also the founder of Arts China Union, has a title that will normally suggest she is lending her eye and expertise to put together a collection of artworks for an exhibition. Only this time, the exhibition is an ambitious project showcasing architecture, culture and nature, and the site totals some 32km of coastline along both Haikou Bay and the Jiangdong New Area on Hainan Island, a province in the southernmost point of China.
Pavilions by the Seaside will feature 16 buildings designed by architects from around the world, including Kengo Kuma, Thomas Heatherwick, Anish Kapoor and Sou Fujimoto, each one designated as public space to showcase arts, culture and the surrounding environment. All 16 pavilions are scheduled to be completed by the end of 2021.
“Pavilions by the Seaside, by emphasising the connection between people, and between people and nature, sets the tone for the sustainable development of the Haikou Free Trade Port in the near future,” says Weng. Upon completion, the pavilions will be a flowing, romantic cultural space by the seaside in Haikou, an arts platform for people to enjoy a creative cultural programme, and inspire a new way of thinking in the post-epidemic era.
“I hope that it will eventually be integrated into the daily life of Haikou residents, providing new experiences to anyone who enjoy leisurely walks by the oceanside.”
The first pavilion—designed by MAD Architects, led by founder Ma Yansong—is located at Haikou Bay and was completed on 21 April. The debut pavilion, titled “Cloudscape of Haikou”, is curvy and sculptural, with hardly a sharp angle in sight.
“I wanted to create a building that features an organic shape, with undulating curves and holes that spans over two levels and allows visitors to catch glimpses of the sky and ocean from different angles through its round windows,” says Ma.
The pavilion was designed to blend in with the surrounding environment, with the floors, ceiling and walls made to look like a continuous structure that flows, and with the curvy design giving way to windows, nooks and walkways. In addition to a library, the pavilion includes a coffee shop, an area with staged seating that can be used for events as well, and a reading and play area especially for children.
“It is a functional building, but it looks like a giant sculpture that people can interact with,” says Ma. “We chose concrete as the main building material so that the pavilion features one consistent colour throughout and will look seamless, with no beginning or end, so people can’t tell how the building is constructed. The look and tone of concrete enhances the architectural design and makes it look harmonious. When people walk in, there is a natural flow throughout the building.”
When it comes to the interiors, Ma also took inspiration from the experience that someone feels when delving into a book.
“I wanted the space to be like gateway into a different dimension, more of less what it is like when you are discovering a new story and world through a book that you are reading,” says Ma. “I want people to feel a little like time is suspended once they walk into ‘Cloudscape of Haikou’, to feel lost in the space a little.”
And as “Cloudscape of Haikou” is the first of the 16 pavilions to be completed and open to the public—a position that is no doubt both an honour and one filled with pressure—Ma sees his pavilion as one that heralds the start of a new journey for the residents of Haikou Bay, one that will increase their appreciation for arts and architecture.
“The project not only enhances the coastline, but it will also make art and architecture more accessible to the residents, instead of something abstract that exists in a museum or a big city. They see these amazing architectural pavilions as a part of daily lives, it becomes something that will be inspiring to young people,” says Ma. “People have a lot of expectations for this project, and I wanted my building to be functional but artistic. It is not a big library, but our aim is for it to be an inviting space.”
“Ma Yansong is a long-time collaborator and we are so pleased that his pavilion has just recently opened to such great reception, along with Sou Fujimoto’s pavilion which will be completed in the coming months,” says Weng. “Pavilions by the Seaside intends to reflect the concerns and thinking of these creative masters, by showcasing a series of works that interpret the theme ‘nature/symbiosis/future’ in various forms. We hope it will inspire the younger generation, and other cities, to re-examine our relationship with nature and encourage a new way of urban living in the post-pandemic age.”