Designed by Kris Yao, Taiwanese architect the founder and head architect at Artech Architects in Taipei and Shanghai. located at the former Wushi Habor in Yilan, the exterior of Lanyang Museum draws inspiration from the “cuesta” style unique to this area, where the land slopes away from a steep-faced cliff. The themes of the permanent exhibition, Yilan’s “mountains, plain, and ocean” are arranged from the top floor down, and explain the history, culture, and natural resources of Yilan. The museum was officially opened in October, 2010, with the intention of becoming a window providing the public with a glimpse of Yilan’s vibrant lifestyle.
The Lanyang Museum in Taiwan’s Yilan Country is no ordinary exhibition space. It does not house classical paintings or modern art; the building itself acts as a gateway to the area’s farmlands, wetlands, grasslands, and coastline, showcasing exhibits that help give its visitors a better understanding of Yilan’s natural environment, history, and cultural heritage.
“When looked at from afar,” says Kris Yao, “the water-absorbent, darker coloured stone cladding forms contrasts with the lighter colour of the aluminium panels, similar to the contrasting hues in various stones layers of the cuesta which have been enhanced by the ocean’s erosion over a long period of time.”
- Serve as a platform for interaction and exchange of the local community museums.
- Serve as a port of entry to provide information and lead tourists to local community museums.
- Assist local community museums in research and collection functions that they generally lack.
- Promote the concept of Yi-Lan as one open museum.
- Research the tidal area of its site and the oceanography between the site and the Turtle Island.
- Unique Cuesta Style: The building’s design is inspired by the cuestas commonly seen along the Beiguan Coast. Cuesta is a Spanish name for a geological formation in which rock layers gently slope up to an escarpment or a cliff and at this raised point the rock layers are exposed on their edges. These cuestas are unique geographical features of this region. The museum adopts the geometric shapes of the cuestas, the roof protrudes from the ground at an angle of 20 degrees meeting a wall which rises from the ground at an angle of 70 degrees. Thus the building emerges from the ground in a similar fashion to that of a cuesta, enabling it to blend in with the surrounding geological features.
- Complementing the Rhythmic Vertical Surface with Musical Notes of the Four Seasons: Looking down on the beautiful Lanyang plain from above, one can see many rice fields of varying sizes, shapes and colors; different weather conditions and seasons cause these fields to change their lovely colors and shades. Kris Yao has displayed musical notes on the four exterior walls of the main building. These notes are from the violin concerto of Vivaldi’s, The Four Seasons. The four movements of Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter are represented by using stones of different textures. These stone notes use the dynamics of this classical music to illustrate the agricultural landscape of the Lanyang plain during the four seasons.
- The Joints of Cuesta: The arrangements, combinations and divisions of the aluminum panels on the exterior walls mimics that of the rock joints of the cuesta, the aluminum panels are parallel with to the 20 degree angled roof, representing the cuesta’s layers of stones flowing downwards into the ground. When looked at from afar, the water absorbent darker colored stone cladding forms contrasts with the lighter color of the aluminum panels, similar to the contrasting hues in various stones layers of the cuesta which have been enhanced by the ocean’s erosion over a long period of time.
- Symbiosis with the Environment: The ideals of “Symbiosis with the environment” and “Become one with nature” are incorporated into the museum’s building and surrounding area so it can be in harmony with the wetland ecology of the Wushi coast. This is the reason the main building, of the museum, is located at the northwest of the grounds. This preserves as large an area as possible of the original wetland ecological park.
- The brief from Yilan County Government: was to create a space that would best showcase the local colour and spirit of Yilan County and offer a spatial experience of the geology, topography, and culture of the area to visitors. The museum’s shape and texture were inspired by cuesta—a geological feature in which rock layers slope gently upward an escarpment and lay exposed at the highest raised point. Symbiosis with nature is emphasised in many facets of the construction process and the museum’s green design has won it many awards, like the Taiwan EEWH Green Building Award. The museum serves as a scenic viewing spot that would allow visitors to take in good views of the surrounding landscape. A crack in the mass of the building also brings in natural light to the interior and serves as a programme-zoning device. Supporting the slanting roof is a 27-metre-long steel truss and load bearing wall system, which allows the architects to construct continuous, columnless interior spaces.
A Museum for Yilan:
Yilan is pretty remote and somewhat isolated from the rest of the world, but flanked by the most glorious mountain in Taiwan, the Chung-yang Mountain Range and the boundless Pacific Ocean, it is a place that is blessed with much natural beauty. Over the last few years, the county has undergone major transformations and infrastructure upgrades, making it more accessible to travelers and urbanites from Taipei. One major project was the 13-kilometre-long Syueshan Tunnel, which reduced the travel time from Taipei County to Yilan from three hours to a mere 40 minutes. Such developments have led to an increase in tourism, which for the most part bodes well for the local economy. Recently, the number of tourism facilities like leisure farms, hotels, bed and breakfasts, restaurants, and hot springs have grown, upping the county’s tourism revenue by a whopping 20 percent.
Located in the northeastern part of the county on the site of Wushi Port—a commercial port that was heavily used during the Qing Dynasty—the Lanyang Museum was built to serve as an anchor attraction for the steadily growing tourism industry here. Built at a cost of NT$1.02 billion, it is a collaboration between Taiwan’s public and private sector and took almost a decade to complete. The museum hopes to attract 400,000 visitors per annum within its first three years of operation, not just with its one-of-a kind geological and cultural permanent exhibits, but also with joint promotions with famous local festivals like the Blue Rain Festival and the Green Expo. The museum also promotes the preservation of Yilan’s ecosystem, which consists of wetland and forest reserves, as well as its cultural heritage. Whale and dolphin watching trips off the Yilan coast and the scenic Guishan or Turtle Island close by are bonus attractions that visitors to Yilan can enjoy.
Yilan County Government commissioned architect Kris Yao, founder of private architectural practice Artech Architects to design the museum. Artech, which was established in Taipei in 1985, was the principal designer for the THSR Hsinchu Station for Taiwan’s high speed railway in Zhubei, Hsinchu County, and is known for its superb urban planning and technical expertise.
The brief from Yilan County Government was to create a space that would best showcase the local colour and spirit of Yilan County and offer a spatial experience of the geology, topography, and culture of the area to visitors. They also wanted the museum to serve as a scenic viewing spot that would allow visitors to take in good views of the surrounding landscape.
A reflection for cuesta:
The master plan was driven by the look and feel of the coastal black stone reef landforms of Yilan in low profile. The museum’s shape and texture were inspired by cuesta—a geological feature in which rock layers slope gently upward on an escarpment and lay exposed at the highest raised point. Cuestas, commonly seen along the Beiguan Coast, are some of the unique geographical features in this area. In fact, the name of the 39,426-square-foot site where the museum is built—Wushi, which means “black rock”—could very well be a reference to cuestas. The 12,472-square-foot building composed mainly of reinforced concrete walls with hollow cast aluminium panels and IGU single low-E glass mimics the cuesta’s geometric shape. Its roof protrudes at an angle of 20 degrees from the ground meeting a wall that rises 70 degrees from the ground. This gives the museum the same fluid tilting motion as the cuestas, allowing it to blend in harmoniously with its surroundings. From a distance, the building looks like a sleek black rock emerging from the earth.
Four Landscapes – Four Seasons:
A continuous exhibition space was created for the permanent displays, which are predominantly geographical recreations of the natural landscape of the region. The entrance of the museum is a replica of the Lanyang Plains where the mountain meets the sea. There is the Mountain Level, Plain Level, Ocean Level, and Time Corridor Exhibitions that are spread over four floors, which show the geography and people of the land. Yao and his team also extended the casting aluminium plate from the exterior walls to the interior walls using a physical separation method in order to bring daylight in and divide the interior sections. A crevice created by displacement brings into view Turtle Island and the shore reef landscapes. This crack in the mass of the building also brings in natural light to the interior and serves as a programme-zoning device. Supporting the slanting roof is a 27-metre-long steel truss and load-bearing wall system, which allowed Yao and his team to construct continuous, columnless interior exhibition spaces.
Another source of inspiration for Yao was Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons violin concerto, which captures the movements of the seasons. Yao created his own architectural rendition of Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter in Yilan, articulating the rhythms of each season with different textured walls on each side of the museum’s exterior. This is achieved through the use of different stones and different types of aluminium plates of each side to illustrate the varied agricultural landscape and colours of the Lanyang Plain during each season. India Black, Caledonia, Rusteinburg, Verde Lava, Olympia White, and Zimbabwe Black Granite were for variation.
One with Nature:
The museum’s exhibits—spatial scenes of fish farms, faraway mountains, the Wushi Harbour, graveyards, and wartime air-raid shelters—offer visitors an insight into the life of the communities in Yilan County in a quick and comprehensive tour. Symbiosis with nature is emphasised in many facets of the construction process and the museum’s green design has won it many awards, like the Taiwan EEWH Green Building Award, 1st Prize for the 7th Annual Far Eastern Architectural Design Award, and 1st Prize for the 2010 Taiwan Architecture Award and Quality Awards for Outstanding Public Architectural Construction.
The site was originally a wetland, and the location of the museum’s main building at the north-western portion allows for the preservation of as much of this wetland as possible. On the west of the main building is a dense forest that acts as a buffer that filters out the noise from the coastal highway. This forest also serves as protection for the wetland. These conserved areas are also part of the museum, which offers programmes and activities that allow visitors to explore the natural terrain of the forest, grassland, and wetland around the main museum building. Taking on the role as custodian of the environment and culture here, the museum has implemented eco management plans that involve the restoration of native trees and the waterside habitat as well as designed education programs that teach visitors about eco-friendly practices.
Indeed, Lanyang Museum’s unique purpose to promote the indigenous culture and celebrate Yilan’s ecology is a noble one. And if imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, then Yao and his team have certainly paid nature the kindest compliment of all.
Taking forms from the cuesta rock formation in and around the site, the museum spaces shift in and out of the “rock”.
This museum is adjacent to the Wushih Port, a once prosperous harbor that is now a wetland. The museum is designed to reflect the unique history, the culture, and the landscape in Lanyang. In addition to reconstructing the harbor’s history, the museum also introduces Yilan’s rich wetland ecology as a part of an outdoor exhibition.
The volume’s dominant geometry is inspired by the natural Cuesta rock formation, commonly found on the coast. By inserting the triangular mass into the ground at an angle, the minimalist architectural geometry mimics the nearby terrain. The building consists of interlacing solid and glass volumes, where the solid volume is reserved for exhibition and administrative spaces and the glass volume serves as the main lobby and the restaurant area.
The gaps between the volumes provide natural lighting and divisions between different functional spaces. The view of the Guishan Island (Turtle Mountain Island) at a distance acts as a constant reference point for visitors, as they experience the alternating inside/outside, solid/void journey through the museum.
A range of granite and cast aluminum panels are used on the building’s exterior to represent the reef’s natural erosion process while incorporating the image of seasonal changes over the Lang Yang plain. These panels of varied textures and sizes translate the musical notes and the rhythmic tempos. The music we choose to represent is Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons Concerto.
Project name: Lanyang Museum
Location: No. 750, Section 3, Qīngyún Rd, Toucheng Township, Yilan County, Taiwan 261
Site Area: 39,426 sqm
Lot Coverage Area: 7,682 sqm
Total Floor Area: 12,473 sqm
Construction started: 2 August 2004
Opening Date: 16 October 2010
Project Year: 2004-2010
Cost: NT$1.02 billion
Completion Year: March 2010
Visit Lanyang Museum’s website: here
Client / Owner / Developer: Yilan County Government
Architects: Artech Architects – Taipei, Taiwan
Principle: Kris Yao
Consultants: Structural Design Group Co., Ltd, 3DC Concept Designers Ltd
Structural Consultants: King – Le Chang & Associates, Structural Design Group Co., Ltd
MEP Consultant: I. S. Lin &Associates Consulting Engineers
Landscape Consultants: Takano Landscape Planning Co., Ltd.
Lighting Consultants: chroma33 Architectural Lighting Design
Exhibition Consultants: Lab-7 International Design Co., Ltd, 3DC Concept Designers Ltd
Façade Consultants: Marco Materials & Envelopes Consulting
Contractors: Li Jin Engineering Co, Ltd, Jia Jia Water and Electricity Co, Ltd, Chang Shun Engineering Co, Ltd, Shuen Ying Construction Limited Company, Chi I Construction Limited Company, Sumida Hitech TenSetsu Co., Ltd, Huang’s Green Country Industrial Co., Ltd
Text Description: © Courtesy of Artech Architects, Lanyang Museum
Images: © Artech Architects, Jeffrey Cheng, Chi-Yi Chang, flickr-axeltriple, flickr-Daniel Aguilera Sánchez, flickr-Yoshita, flickr-catalanta, flickr-Chen YC, flickr-violin6918