China Wood Sculpture Museum

  • Gold hues of  the low-lying winter sun reflected in the building's polished steel panels.

    Gold hues of the low-lying winter sun reflected in the building's polished steel panels.

  • The building was designed with the region's freezing winters in mind.

    The building was designed with the region's freezing winters in mind.

  • Harbin is China's 10th-largest city.

    Harbin is China's 10th-largest city.

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Founded in 1898 by a Polish engineer fresh from completing the Russian-funded Chinese Eastern Railway, the city of Harbin stands out in northeastern China for its blend of turn-of-the-century Russian architecture and more recent Sino construction. The Heilongjiang-province city’s latest brick-and-mortar showpiece is, however, a radical departure from anything that has gone before. Designed by MAD Architects, the China Wood Sculpture Museum looks as if someone dropped a 200-meter-long sinuous abstraction into a beige residential grid. Polished steel cladding reflects light back out at the surrounding midrise towers, while skylights have been placed to draw in light when the sun tracks a low arc during Harbin’s freezing winters. The purpose of the museum is to showcase the region’s wood sculptures as well as paintings documenting a winter that sees average temperatures in January near -20 °C.

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