Designing a modern structure that celebrates traditional local architecture without compromising form and functionality is not an easy task. When I.M.Pei was approached by the mayor of Suzhou to design a museum in 2001, his brief was just that. The fact that the earmarked site was in the heritage area of Suzhou, and backed against “The Humble Administrators Garden”, was an additional handicap.
From the look of the remarkable building in front of us, Pei managed to pull off the feat to near perfection!
For Pei was no stranger to Suzhou. This was the city of his ancestors and although he was not born here, he spent many holidays in his ancestral home in “The Lion Grove Garden”, another World Heritage Site.
The Museum that opened in 2006 was his interpretation of the distinctive elements of the traditional Suzhou landscape.
The circular doorway, the grey color palette, the walled garden, the water bodies, the viewing pavilions, the zigzag bridge, the beautiful framed vistas from every angle – all pay homage to the city and the gardens that he played in as a child. Pei hoped this would be “…..a case study for contemporary design in historic environs for the new generation of Chinese planners, government officials, and designers”
This was the primary reason we chose to visit Suzhou. (Much like we dashed across to Bilbao on a day-trip from Barcelona, just to see the Guggenheim Museum!!)
The exhibits inside are beautiful and worth seeing, but as far as I was concerned, this exquisite little building was the star of the show. If you are at all interested in architecture do try and include the Suzhou Museum in your Shanghai itinerary.
Until next time….happy travels, no matter where life takes you.