View of the model, showing the entry hall of the Planning Museum.
Courtesy Steven Holl Architects View of the model, showing the entry hall of the Planning Museum.


The governments of Singapore and China are partnering to build a new eco-city for 350,000 on a reclaimed salt pan and polluted tidal flats in Tianjin (approximately 80 miles from Beijing), in order to demonstrate sustainable best practices. Anchoring opposite sides of a plaza, the Ecology and Planning museums, which (at 215,278 square feet apiece) incorporate exhibition spaces, offices, a public plaza, event spaces, and a café, are the first elements that will be built in the cultural district. One museum is a rectangular volume with large voids that appear to be carved away; the other, more sculptural form represents the collective spaces subtracted from the first. Inside and out, the design approach yields a variety of heroic, irregularly shaped spaces. In the curvilinear Ecology Museum, visitors spiral upward along a ramp that traces the edge of a large atrium. The rectilinear Planning Museum—with an exterior shear wall made of bamboo-formed concrete—tells the story of the city’s formation. “It has a strong identity and it’s compositionally interesting,” juror Lise Anne Couture said. “There’s coherence between the interior and the exterior, and between one interior space and another.”

Form study watercolor.
Courtesy Steven Holl Architects Form study watercolor.


View of Entry Hall.
Courtesy Steven Holl Architects View of Entry Hall.
View of South Atrium.
Courtesy Steven Holl Architects View of South Atrium.


View from Lecture Hall.
Courtesy Steven Holl Architects View from Lecture Hall.


View of Entry Hall.
Courtesy Steven Holl Architects View of Entry Hall.


Form study watercolor.
Courtesy Steven Holl Architects Form study watercolor.


Bamboo-formed concrete exteriors give way to smooth interiors in this view of a model for the Tianjin Eco-City Ecology and Planning Museums.
Courtesy Steven Holl Architects Bamboo-formed concrete exteriors give way to smooth interiors in this view of a model for the Tianjin Eco-City Ecology and Planning Museums.


Interior galleries in the model result from carved spaces.
Courtesy Steven Holl Architects Interior galleries in the model result from carved spaces.


A close-up of the model shows contrasts in materiality and texture between interior and exterior surfaces.
Courtesy Steven Holl Architects A close-up of the model shows contrasts in materiality and texture between interior and exterior surfaces.


Exterior rendering.
Courtesy Steven Holl Architects Exterior rendering.


View of the model, showing the Planning Museum’s south façade, looking into the central atrium.
Courtesy Steven Holl Architects View of the model, showing the Planning Museum’s south façade, looking into the central atrium.


View from the northwest, showing the Ecology Museum in the foreground and the Planning Museum in the background.
Courtesy Steven Holl Architects View from the northwest, showing the Ecology Museum in the foreground and the Planning Museum in the background.



Project Credits

Project Tianjin EcoCity Ecology and Planning Museums, Tianjin, China
Client Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City Administrative 
Architect Steven Holl Architects, New York—Steven Holl, FAIA (design architect); Roberto Bannura (director-in-charge); Garrick Ambrose, Yu-Ju Lin, Michael Rusch (project architects); Laetitia Buchter, Bell Ying Yu Cai, Xi Chen, Romeo Chang, Deng Ming Cong, Rychiee Espinosa, Nathalie Frankowski, Annie Kountz, Magdalena Naydekova, Elise Riley, Yun Shi, Wenying Sun, Yasmin Vobis, Manta Weihermann (project team) 
Associate Architects Tianjin Architectural Design Institute 
Structural Engineer CABR 
Climate Engineer Transsolar
Lighting Consultant L’Observatoire International
Size 60,000 square meters (645,835 square feet), total construction; 20,000 square meters (215,278 square feet), each museum

See all of the other Progressive Architecture winners here.