Jean Nouvel, design for NAMOC (all images via

Jean Nouvel, design for NAMOC (all images via

Architect Jean Nouvel has unveiled his plans for the new National Art Museum of China (NAMOC), a massive structure measuring 130,000 square meters (1,399,308 square feet) — eight times the size of the current NAMOC, and more than double that of the Louvre. Working with the Beijing Institute of Architectural Design, Nouvel has dreamt up a futuristic design for the building, which will be located in a museum district at the former site of the Beijing Olympics; it includes an indoor garden encased in a sunlight-filtering facade, a carved, gold-painted ceiling in its central “summer hall,” and a “grand terrace” on the roof, among other features.

From its exterior rendering, the structure looks something like a wavy, futuristic rectangular slab floating just off the ground — or, as the press release puts it: “The NAMOC is written in space as a fragment of an ideogram shaped by an artist over a long period of time, giving it both a sense of mastery and voluntary incompleteness: by taking off the ground it imposes itself into the sky.”

Jean Nouvel, rendering of NAMOC’s interior garden in summer

The rest of the announcement is similarly and comically grandiose in its statement of ambitions for the museum, whose collections span ancient to contemporary Chinese art. Here’s most of the key passage:

At the beginning of the XXI st century museums are still too often considered as places for conservation, consultation and education. These are useful functions, but based on conventional thinking and cultural consumption. The museums should become lively places, resonating with invention where exhibits prove that sensations and emotions triggered by art are amplified by time, by the complicit juxtaposition of works from various times, and all the eras of invention. The most sincere inventors of our time must absolutely find in these moments a place for expression. It is our responsibility to invite the creators into a place where they can dream, in which they can be recognized, and offer the artists the means to express themselves better than ever, to reveal themselves more clearly and intensely than anywhere else. The NAMOC represents an incredible opportunity for the most ambitious materialization of a place for expression, of communication and attraction, a place that witnesses the vitality of a civilization, the civilization of the greatest people on earth. … Our goal is to protect the miracles created with ink throughout the centuries, to reveal the force of a living art… to welcome the artist of tomorrow. The museum is a milestone that now establishes architecture as a civilizational medium, as the memorial symbiosis of nature and human expression. … Today, the role of architecture is to catalyze, to precipitate the spirit of a situation should it be individual, plural or civilizational.

How the NAMOC and Nouvel — who beat out Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, and Moshe Safdie for the job — will single-handedly reinvent museums and architecture remains to be seen. So does the cost of such an epic project, since the budget of this one has not been made public, according to The Art Newspaper.

Jean Nouvel, rendering of the NAMOC summer hall with gold ceiling

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Jillian Steinhauer

Jillian Steinhauer is a former senior editor of Hyperallergic. She writes largely about the intersection of art...