Image Credit : Picture copyright: He Art Museum




Project Overview

Located in Shunde, Guangdong, He Art Museum (HEM) is a family established, non-profit art museum designed by Tadao Ando. From focusing on the zeitgeist of modern art and culture to the progress of contemporary art with an international vision, HEM is devoted to present compelling art exhibitions, as well as diverse and open cultural activities.

The design of HEM’s architecture pursues the philosophy of spatial integration, bringing in the contrasting geometrical design elements into one place. Highlighted with the world’s first and only double-helix staircase made with slick concrete and spacious innovative exhibition halls in circular structure, it hopes to utilize the space to create multidimensional cultural and artistic experience to art enthusiasts and the local community.

Project Commissioner


Project Creator

Tadao Ando Architect & Associates


Tadao Ando Architect & Associates
- Tadao Ando
- Masataka Yano
- Kazutoshi Miyamura

- Ma Weidong
- Li Yi

Tadao Ando Architect & Associates
- Tadao Ando
- Masataka Yano
- Kazutoshi Miyamura

Beijing Tsingshang Architectural Decoration Engineering Co., LTD
- Wang Jian

Sanxin Hongri Lighting Co., LTD

- Chen Zhuojun

China Construction Eighth Engineering Division. Corp. LTD


Project Brief

HEM’s construction area is approximately 16,000 square meters, Ando’s design presents his signature with the use of reinforced concrete, represented by the double-helix staircase in the central courtyard. Drawn from the ancient Chinese cosmology and philosophy of “the sky is round, while the earth is square”, the architecture can be divided into two major types of exhibition space, three halls in arc-shaped with the double-helix staircase in the center, and one typical standard cuboid exhibition hall highlighted with enormous glass walls facing towards the garden and the pond outdoor.

Ando’s architectural design challenges the “dynamic geometry”. Different size of circles expanded to the outside, creating a sense of tension and rhythm. It pursues a dynamic balance among the stable structure. These circles constructed the space of the building through ripple-like expansion: from top to bottom, with the overlapping of four circles. With each area’s clear-cut periphery, an enriched variation effect is created through the interaction between spaces.

The central skywell floods the museum with natural light, creating spaciousness, clarity and a symbol of hope. The entire building is surrounded by a garden in the shape of crescent. This Lingnan (Cantonese) style of landscape adopts the characteristics of waterside pavilion and garden. the reflection of the building creates a beautiful illusion as if the basement of the building is elevated up to the sky.

Project Innovation/Need

The ideology behind the architecture is to create a new culture and arts center infused with Lingnan (Cantonese) architectural culture in the southern region of China. Every country and region with high artistic atmosphere requires local museums and galleries to exert their educational impact on native residents. Shunde is an affluent town with a strong economy. Residents have a strong consumption capability but there are not many choices in town. They have been looking for experiences in arts and culture, but the current cultural offerings haven’t met their satisfaction.

Therefore, the space of HEM allows audience to experience art in a variety of dimensions, introducing a wide spetrum of culture and arts to the local community. Meanwhile, this project hopes to become a driving force for the local tourism industry.

HEM embraces the world’s first double-helix slick concrete staircase and it is a phenomenal achievement that proves a major breakthrough in the architecture industry. In terms of the space design, as an art museum, the space of standard white cube can see through all of artworks but lack a sense of connotation in Chinese culture. HEM adopts the association of circle and square. In the circular architectural form, it sets out a new form of art space, embedding the culture of museum with more individuality. At HEM, the space has seamlessly intergrated with the experience of art.

Design Challenge

The museum has a floor height of 5400mm and the double-helix staircase connects a total of four floors. After repeated calculations, the number of steps on each floor is 45, and the width of the steps is reduced by 9mm one by one. This means each step of the double-helix staircase has a different arc angle and different size. Metal skeletons and metal templates in the same proportion were made, debugged, modified, shaped in the factory, after which it disassembled and transported to the site for assembly.

Another challenge is the design of arc overhang eaves. Each piece of the arc template is different, so a template processing factory is built on the site to ensure that each template is numbered and each block is accurately in the correct position.

Besides, Tadao Ando has strict requirements for the construction technique and quality, including flatness, smoothness, and all seams. The edge of every concrete is as sharp as a knife-shaped cake and the seam between each concrete is rigorously limited within 1mm. If the entire building is watched from a bird's-eye view, the ground and wall joints in the same orientation in different floors need to be completely overlapped without gaps.

Travel time is also very crucial for the ready-mixed concrete transporting from the mixing plant to the construction site. Otherwise it would result in segregation and a reduction of its workability. However, weather conditions and traffic congestions have been the obstacles among this process.


Apart from fair-faced concrete, other materials are sourced locally. The design of HEM’s architecture takes the good use of natural light as a supplement for illumination, which reduce the use of electric lights. The architectural designs of fence roof and glass cut off the thermal radiation to the largest extent, reflecting the heat and reduce the energy dissipation of air-conditioners. The rate of energy conservation is as high as 50.04%.

Meanwhile, at the garden of HEM, 13 types and 157 trees with over 12cm in diameter at breast height in total are planted. Not only a vigorous view is created, but also aiming at providing a more natural, oxygen-rich environment for the local neighborhood.

This award celebrates the design process and product of planning, designing and constructing form, space and ambience that reflect functional, technical, social, and aesthetic considerations. Consideration given for material selection, technology, light and shadow. 
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