Cloud Art Museum by HLD Art & Design Has Been Conceived as a Spiritual Revolution of Art and Community

Injecting an artistic spirit into community culture, community-based art museums bring about a new lifestyle

Situated within a residential community at the junction between Huizhou and Shenzhen HLD Art & Design fully integrates the architectural space with art, starting a spiritual revolution of art and community lifestyle. 

With rapid urbanization and the development of technology and art, material life has been enriched and lifestyle keeps evolving. Many property developers have started to slow down the pace and shift the focus to community operation. This project is situated in Beyond The Valley, which is a comprehensive community located at the junction area between Shenzhen and Huizhou and enjoying beautiful natural landscapes. Rongjiang Industrial Group, the developer and operator of Beyond The Valley, adopted "art intervention" approaches to endow the residential community with a new soul. By breaking through the shackles of physical architectural space and building innovative spiritual spaces, it aims to turn the residential community into a spiritual home.

This has given birth to Cloud Art Museum, which carries community culture as well as art spirit, to become a new artistic and cultural spiritual venue in the Beyond The Valley community, and revolutionizes the lifestyle of people living here. Cloud Art Museum links with residents in the community through artwork, becoming not only a space for interaction between people and art, but also a channel for the community to connect with the outside. It brings warmth to the community, and expands the residents' spiritual world through artworks. Shen Shaomin, art consultant of the project, explains, “For the design team, the major challenges were to reconstruct the existing physical space, to fuse the space and art spirit, and to let it resonate with community life.”

"White Cane Safety Day" is a verse that renowned artist Shen Shaomin wrote for the blind several years ago. Braille characters of this poem have been transformed into decor and details in the circular art gallery, which play a constructive role in promoting the community's welfare and shaping its culture. In this way, the spatial design conveys the community's values. HLD Art & Design applied curatorial thinking to the art of space, breaking the conventional cognition about space. The spatial transformation and digital interactive technology bring technology, community, people and nature closer. Based on the concept of "community's co-created art museum", the design team worked with artists to incorporate creative design languages into the existing irregular space. "In light of the irregular structure and limited scale of the art museum, and in order to enrich its display functions, we created a one-meter-wide circular art gallery on the edge, which helped to double the exhibition route. The art gallery also functions as a black tunnel leading to the white hall, providing visitors with a fantastic experience seeking light", says Shen. Elaborates the founder of HLD Art & Design, Zhou He, "Mr. Shen took advantage of the interior surfaces to create public art, turning daylighting openings into a Braille verse. Due to the limited scale of the art museum, we decided to create an art gallery loop to increase the area for displaying artworks, after several rounds of discussions. It produces a cramped yet unique spatial experience for visitors whilst also breaking with design limitations of the conventional white-box space”. 

Shen Shaomin, art consultant
Founder of HLD Art & Design, Zhou He

The limited spatial scale caused difficulties in the organization of circulation routes. The double-slope floor and glass architectural components also posed a great challenge to the project. When approaching these problems, the design team communicated with Shen and decided to adapt to the site' conditions to turn the slope into a highlight of the space. The existing sloped floor was retained, allowing visitors' experience to vary with the height difference while appreciating artworks. The unique visual experience and sloped floor establish an interaction between visitors and the space. On the other hand, the design team made full use of the glass facade components to bring in daylight, to guide the line of sight and create a distinctive visual space. A narrow, long and dark art gallery space creates a tranquil environment, where artworks showcased in the linear space guide the circulation route while expressing emotions. The spatial design of Cloud Art Museum also follows curatorial thinking, and subtly integrates the distinctive architectural environment with the emotional and inclusive art atmosphere, while the undulating floor offers visitors distinct physical and spiritual experiences. With the spatial design languages combined, this project creates an "improvisational" art space filled with an unexpected philosophical vibe.

While conceiving the physical space, HLD Art & Design provided a variety of possibilities for the future operation of the community-based art museum, including curation, art creation, and public education of art. Acting as an exhibition coordinator, HLD Art & Design have assisted Cloud Art Museum in organizing a multitude of exhibitions and workshops, to create the paradigm for the future operation of the art museum. Says Zhou, "We took into consideration the museum's operation in spatial design. A community art museum is socially significant, somewhat like a spiritual fortress. Art provides a spiritual get-together among artists, designers, anthropologists, scientists and residents in the community. The exhibitions and public education activities enable the meaningful transmission and communication of public artworks”. 

"This art museum not only satisfies local residents' demand for a physical art space, but also evokes the sense of pride and belonging at a spiritual level. It enables children in the community to grow up surrounded by art and beauty, and will plant the seeds of aesthetics in their hearts. The significance of this community art museum will be testified by its residents."

From design to curation, the focus of Cloud Art Museum is always the people. It endeavors to stimulate one’s multiple senses and new experiences. HLD’s founder Zhou believes that as urbanization progresses, the real estate industry has gradually shifted the focus from development to operation. Creation of physical space alone is only the start of forming a residential community, while the key of the community's operation lies in the lifestyles and ideas of its residents, which requires long-term cultivation.

The global pandemic has given people much to think about. During quarantine, people began to contemplate on their living space and emotional relationships. The community-based art museum is a "spiritual church" that unites people. At the same time, it allows residents to form a dynamic network by engaging them in various community art activities. For the residential community, the museum is more than just a spiritual fortress. Besides art exhibitions, various public education activities concerning technology, humanities, arts and more are organized here. By helping residents to understand art and participate in it, it benefits their family and creates a virtuous cycle. Says Zhou, “In my opinion, no matter how times change, human's pursuit of purity and artistic 'beauty' is eternal. It is an unchanging law, and the foundation of the existence of the community's spiritual fortress. As the Tao Te Ching says, 'the above takes the below as its basis'. Although art is relatively metaphysical, public education activities in the art museum are a way to involve more people and create chemistry between ordinary people and art”. 

The continuous practice of bringing art to community is an exploration between imagination and reality. Like the Braille characters carved in a dim corridor, it forcefully separates the experience of the senses in a culture that values the visual, constructs a spirit with the form of art, and adds freshness to daily life and community culture. 

After the opening of Cloud Art Museum, HLD Art & Design has continued to participate in the curation of art exhibitions, public art creation and public education of community art. These local experimental art activities invigorate community life on a cultural level. From spatial design to cultural operation, HLD Art & Design has integrated art and community life from many different perspectives and in various forms, proving that art is also a way of life.

Words: Emily Leung & Nikey Cheng
Photos: Sean, Mao Yanjun, Zhou Zhendong & Xie Yujie
Published on January 15, 2024