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Museum of Handcraft Paper

The Museum is located close to a village at the foot of Gaoligong Mountain. It provides exhibition space for ancient paper craft and artefacts produced locally. Six galleries clustered around a courtyard form a microvillage. The exhibition is extended through displays of paper-craft in the village. Texture is articulated through local materials, formal expression and visual connection with the landscape. The spatial experience of the village is consolidated within the museum. Interior spaces alternate between galleries and views beyond. Accommodation on upper levels includes offices, tea and guest rooms. Local timber, bamboo, handcrafted paper, low energy-consuming and decomposable natural materials are used.

Museum-of-Handcraft-Paper-By-Trace-Architecture-Office-05 Museum of Handcraft Paper / Trace Architecture Office (TAO)

© Trace Architecture Office

The design is aimed at making a climate responsive and environment friendly building. Local materials such as wood, bamboo, handcraft paper and volcano stone are used for exterior finish, roof, interior finish and floor respectively. With time passed, these materials will worn and fade into a more harmonious color with the landscape. The construction is to maximize the usage of local materials, technique and craftsmanship. The building combines traditional timber structural system featuring nail-less tenon (SunMao) connection and modern detailing. It was built completely by local builders.

Museum-of-Handcraft-Paper-By-Trace-Architecture-Office-03 Museum of Handcraft Paper / Trace Architecture Office (TAO)

© Trace Architecture Office

Trace Architecture Office:

The museum of handcraft paper is located in a field next to Xinzhuang village under Gaoligong Mountain of Yunnan, a world ecological preserve area in southwest of China. The village has a long tradition on handcraft paper making. The museum project is a part of the plan for preservation and development of traditional resources, in which papermaking will be preserved as cultural heritage and contribute to community growth. To exhibit the history, technique and product of paper making, this museum consists of exhibition space, bookstore, work space and guest rooms for artist and visitors.

Museum-of-Handcraft-Paper-By-Trace-Architecture-Office-08 Museum of Handcraft Paper / Trace Architecture Office (TAO)

© Trace Architecture Office

The site is next to the main road entering the village. The museum functions like a preview window of the village, in the sense that the whole village will function as a big museum because each home in village will open to the visitors showing papermaking process. The museum is thus conceived as a micro-village, a cluster of several small buildings. The building scale is in concord with adjacent village and landscape. The spatial concept is to create a visiting experience alternating between exhibition inside and landscape outside when visitor walks through the galleries on ground level, so as to provoke an awareness of the inseparable relationship between paper making and environment. On second level, there is an open work space and meeting room. Through an outdoor stair, one can walk up to roof terrace with a view to the bamboo roofscape of galleries below, and a glass roofed veranda space facing east where one can have a panoramic view to Gaoligong mountain.

Museum-of-Handcraft-Paper-By-Trace-Architecture-Office-13 Museum of Handcraft Paper / Trace Architecture Office (TAO)

© Trace Architecture Office

The design is aimed at making a building rooted in local environment. This leads to the concept that the construction is to maximize the usage of local materials, construction method and traditional craftsmanship and to be built completely by local builders. Yet it also employs the modern materials and technique available in local context.

Museum-of-Handcraft-Paper-By-Trace-Architecture-Office-14 Museum of Handcraft Paper / Trace Architecture Office (TAO)

© Trace Architecture Office

Thus the construction of museum will be both a preservation and transformation of local building tradition. It is an architectural attempt of combining modern quality with regional character by using local resources and suitable techniques in the rural context of contemporary China.

Museum-of-Handcraft-Paper-By-Trace-Architecture-Office-15 Museum of Handcraft Paper / Trace Architecture Office (TAO)

© Trace Architecture Office

The building is designed with traditional Chinese wood structural system featuring nail-less tenon (SunMao) connection, which can be skillfully built by local builders. Local materials such as fir wood, bamboo, volcano stone and handcraft paper are used for exterior finish, roof, floor and interior finish respectively. With time passed, these materials will worn and fade into a more harmonious color with the landscape. These living materials hint a sense of time on building.

Museum-of-Handcraft-Paper-By-Trace-Architecture-Office-16 Museum of Handcraft Paper / Trace Architecture Office (TAO)

© Trace Architecture Office

The form and detail of building is conceived to respond to the views, natural light, and climate. In galleries, the breeze blows through the porous stone footing at the bottom of exterior wall for ventilation so that the wall is free of operable windows. Thus it gives more wall area to the exhibition. The openings on the wall are purely for views to the outside. A single piece of glass is set in the opening and turns it into a picture of landscape. The high windows on side wall of gallery introduce natural light into the exhibition space yet avoiding the glare at eye level.

Museum-of-Handcraft-Paper-By-Trace-Architecture-Office-17 Museum of Handcraft Paper / Trace Architecture Office (TAO)

© Trace Architecture Office

The handcraft paper is pasted on the bottom side of glass roof of linking space between galleries so as to gain diffused light from above. On facade, the exterior wall stops at the bottom of beam level and exposes beam and part of columns at the corners. Also with exposed roof structure at interior space and the stone column base on facade, these details reveal that the building is supported by the column and beam system instead of wall.

Museum-of-Handcraft-Paper-By-Trace-Architecture-Office-09 Museum of Handcraft Paper / Trace Architecture Office (TAO)

© Trace Architecture Office

The handcraft paper on interior finish is applied on a wood frame with 45cm by 45cm square module (limited by the paper size but guarantees the smoothness of wall). The exhibition niche layout based on this module is integrated into the wall. The white paper wall in galleries creates a soft and warm atmosphere and keeps the space abstract.

Museum-of-Handcraft-Paper-By-Trace-Architecture-Office-10 Museum of Handcraft Paper / Trace Architecture Office (TAO)

© Trace Architecture Office

The construction of building is completed by a team of local farmer builders. Architect built models in various scales to communicate the spatial, structure and detail concept with builders because they are not used to read the working drawings. However they are good at building things in mind and they worked efficiently with concept clarified.

Museum-of-Handcraft-Paper-By-Trace-Architecture-Office-04 Museum of Handcraft Paper / Trace Architecture Office (TAO)

© Trace Architecture Office

Project Data:

Project name: Museum of Handcraft Paper
Location: Xinzhuang village, Yunnan, Tengchong, China
Coordinates: n/a
Type: Museum

  • Structural system: timber construction with traditional Chinese tenon connection
  • Roofing: bamboo,
  • Facade Construction: timber board, volcano stone
  • Interior finishes: handcraft paper
  • Floor: volcano stone

Floor Area: 361 sqm
Design Year: 2008,4-2009,5
Construction Year: 2009,5-2010,12
Completion Year: 2010
Visit Museum of Handcraft Paper’s website: here

The people:

Client / Owner / Developer: Committee of Gaoligong Museum of Handcraft Paper
Architects: Trace Architecture Office (TAO) – No. 241-15 Caochangdi, Chaoyang, Beijing 100015, China
Principal Designer: HUA Li / TAO
Project Team: HUA Li, Huang Tianju, Li Guofa, Jiang Nan, Sun Yuanxia, Xu Yinjun, Yang Hefeng
Construction team: Local farmer builders led by Long Zhanwen
Text Description: © Courtesy of Trace Architecture Office
Images: © Trace Architecture Office

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