New Chinese comics museum designed by Dutch architects MVRDV

Of course it was just a matter of time before China, even more American than America in wanting to be the number one nation in everything, went big into comics. Hence the China Comic and Animation Museum to be build in Hangzhou, designed by the Dutch architects MVRDV in the shape of eight speech balloons

CCAM exterior desgined by MVRDV architects

(Rotterdam, 5th May 2011) Hangzhou urban planning bureau has announced MVRDV winner of the international design competition for the China Comic and Animation Museum (CCAM) in Hangzhou, China. MVRDV won with a design referring to the speech balloon: a series of eight speech balloon shaped volumes create an internally complex museum experience of in total 32.000m2. Part of the project is also a series of parks on islands, a public plaza and a 13.000m2 expo centre. Construction start is envisioned for 2012, the total budget is 92 million Euro.

Comics and animations have long been considered a form of entertainment for the younger generations but develop more and more into a sophisticated art form. The initiative for a museum especially for this relatively recent art form creates a platform which will unite the worlds of art and entertainment. By using one of the cartoons prime characteristics ‘– the speech balloon — the building will instantly be recognized as place for cartoons, comics and animations. The neutral speech balloon becomes 3d.

The 32.000m2 are divided into eight volumes which are interconnected allowing for a circular visit of the entire program. Services such as the lobby, education, three theatres/cinemas with in total 1111 seats and a comic book library occupy each their own balloon. If two balloons touch in the interior a large opening allows access and views in-between the volumes. The balloon shape allows for supple exhibitions, the permanent collection is presented in a chronological spiral whereas the temporary exhibition hall offers total flexibility. Amsterdam based exhibition architects Kossman.deJong tested the spaces and designed exhibition configurations which appeal to different age groups and allow large crowds to visit the exhibition. One of the balloons is devoted to interactive experience in which visitors can actively experiment with all sorts of animation techniques like blue screen, stop motion, drawing, creating emotions etc. The core attraction of this space is a gigantic 3D zoetrope. The routing of the museum permits short or long visits, visits to the cinema, the temporary exhibition or the roof terrace restaurant. The façade of the museum is covered in a cartoon relief referring to a Chinese vase. The monochrome white concrete façade allows the speech balloons to function: texts can be projected onto the façade. The relief was designed in collaboration with Amsterdam based graphic designers JongeMeesters.

Most of the 13.7 ha site is occupied by a new park on a series of islands in White Horse Lake. Reed beds are used to improve the water quality. Boat rides offer an added attraction. A separate expo building of 25.000m2 will house large fairs and the annual China International Comic and Animation Festival (CICAF). In-between expo and CCAM a public plaza will be the centre of this festival which is the county’s largest cartoon and animation event and has been held annually in Hangzhou since 2005.

I excerpted such a huge chunk of their press release because they found it necessary to build their site in Flash, making it awkward to impossible to read. Unfortunately I can’t do anything about the slightly stilted “Dunglish” on display here, other than suggest that such internationally operating architects need to invest in having a proper Dutch to English translator on staff. (Yes, I’m arrogant enough to believe my own English is much better; please don’t disabuse me of this notion.)

Great design though; it reminds me of Robbert and Rudolf Das, two Dutch futurologists who in the late seventies and eighties published several books creating a vision of the future in which this design would not be out of place. For example. It’s such a simple idea to create 3-d speech balloons to house a comics museum, but you still have to think of it first.