A Small Museum that Combines Digital Technology Adds a New Technological Look and Feel to the Ancient City Nantou

Follow the mysterious and unpredictable passage which leads you to this stealth space

With the rapid development of global science and technology, it is promising to know that there is still a group of creative talents, keen to preserve the history of the past. Indeed, only in cherishing the past and integrating the present can we really allow learnt experiences and the ingenuity of the new to collide freely and conquer a completely new, unrestricted design language. 

As one passes through the old city gate of Nantou Ancient City, Nanshan District in Shenzhen, and walk along the main street, you will come to the Nantou Ancient City Digital Exhibition Hall building complex. This small museum is in a two-story space, which utilizes digital technology and multimedia images to reproduce local history. In addition to a series of built-in historical experiences, the design ingenuity of the building at the outset is worthy of our careful consideration: in the middle of the north and south main streets, there are public facilities with cultural and community attributes. Exposed original buildings and preserved old brick walls bring the past to life. The main entrance faces a bustling street, leading people to the front hall and the long and narrow corridor at the back. A series of black walls absorb natural light and create an unfathomable mysterious path. As you go  through the corridor to the rear garden, you’ll be greeted by another quiet street that has not been transformed, and this directly contrasts with the reality of the original residents from  the urban village.

11Architecture’s architectural team explains, "This small museum consists of the first floor and part of the second floor of six village houses belonging to different owners. These sx houses will be renovated and operated in the form of a lease. Therefore, in the renovation works, we had to consider the area and boundary issues very carefully, and the site conditions such as the crowded building volume and narrow street spacest. But the biggest design challenge was  to decide ‘what to keep’ from the site to retain the important historical features of the locale. 

After demolishing the unstable structure and temporary shed, the team built a new immersive digital exhibition hall box for the site, and added a linear exhibition hall to the north, where visitors can not only enjoy the works of art and exhibitions, but are also at a unique vantage point to observe the southern part of the complex. You can also taste fragrant tea in the tea room in the back garden, while the upper floor of the museum is a long-term rental apartment for young people. The upper floor of the museum is a long-term rental apartment for young professionals. There is a small public space and a beer bar at the entrance. Combined with the pocket plaza in front of the Twin Shop-Houses (also renovated by 11Architecture) on the other side of the street, a comprehensive cultural community is formed.

The museum uses black as the main design axis, utilizing black Chinese stone, black stainless steel, black tiles, black paint and other materials with different textures and reflections to connect the six buildings through visual effects. Via  interesting dialogues with a sense of depth, visitors can truly experience the multimedia images that emerge from the dark background. The black steel canopy on the main wall is 14 meters long and consists of 20 prefabricated units that can be seen as the dividing line between the museum and the rental apartments on the upper floor. Each element is composed of two folded steel plates that form when the panels are interlocked. The triangular slits absorb light and enhance visual depth.

Being inside the space is like walking into a cave of nature to explore the light in the dark. Within this contemplative atmosphere intertwining the ancient with the modern, it's the ideal space for visitors to reflect on the past, while connecting with local and current emotional moments.

Words: Emily Leung & Nikey Cheng
Photos: Zhang Chao
Published on March 02, 2022