Inside Shenzhen's Groundbreaking New Design Center

By Bailey Hu, December 1, 2017

1 0

Behind the Concrete is a monthly snippet where we introduce a piece of architecture that has a unique design and/or interesting story. 

For most people, a museum opening doesn’t exactly conjure up images of a good time. Yet with Shenzhen’s first world-class design center debuting on December 2, fans of art and culture in the city have a very real reason to get excited.

The inaugural galleries of the new Sea World Culture and Arts Center, plus the building itself, boast some impressive credentials.

17.12-PRD-Arts-Sea-World-Culture-and-Arts-Center-inside.jpgDuring construction

An exhibit titled ‘Values of Design' features 250 carefully curated objects from London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), known for its vast collection of art from around the world.

Artifacts range in age from over a millennium to practically new; originate from 31 countries; and span the fields of fashion, technology and furniture. Items as diverse as an 18th century Persian astrolabe, a 400-year-old gun mechanism and a 1998 Apple computer are displayed together, leading to unexpected connections across space and time.



Another exhibit, ‘Minding the Digital,’ offers a more modern perspective on design with large-scale, often interactive works. Sundew, for example, melds colorful cloth filaments with ‘sensing technologies’ – as a result, its flexible structures react to changes in pitch of sound.


Not far away, Sharevari surrounds viewers in a ring of tall metal contraptions that ‘translate’ their body movements into music, while ON/OFF turns data on the Pearl River Delta into paper sculptures, painting a bigger picture of the world around us.


A third and final exhibit takes a closer look at the Culture and Arts Center itself as well as its architect, Pritzker Prize winner Fumihiko Maki.

Besides the main attractions, the four-story center has more surprises in store such as a new ‘Shekou Museum of Reform and Opening’ on the third floor. Said to be the first institution in China dedicated solely to post-Mao history, it documents the story of Shenzhen’s earliest ‘special economic zone.’

Another museum-inside-a-museum examines traditional and ancient Chinese culture from a design perspective: the Guanfu Museum, which already has branches in Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou and Xiamen, gets a Shenzhen installment on the Center’s first floor.

The new complex also has a public event space, food and drink outlets and a rooftop garden, not to mention pretty sweet sea views from the small park around the building.


All of this has, relatively speaking, been a long time coming. The Sea World Arts and Culture Center was first commissioned by the V&A and China Merchants Group in 2014, in the midst of the country’s ongoing museum-building frenzy. Since then, considerable effort has apparently gone into ensuring the Shekou center has substance as well as form.

To celebrate a successful debut, a design-centered conference, workshop and ‘funfair’ will be held in the complex from December 2-3. Special guests include the building’s architect, Fumihiko Maki, plus the deputy director of the V&A and other big names in design and architecture.

17.12-PRD-Arts-Sea-World-Culture-and-Arts-Center-drone-construction.jpgDuring construction earlier this year

The trio of events marks not only the opening of a groundbreaking design establishment in Shenzhen, but another step in the right direction for the local arts scene.

Find the website for the new center here. Exhibits open daily 10am-9pm. More about the opening events here.

See listing for Sea World Culture and Arts Center.

For more Behind the Concrete(s), click here

more news

A Guide to Garbage Disposal and Recycling in China

How to properly dispose rubbish under China's new trash sorting rules.

100architects: China's Pioneers of Functional Urban Art

As architects, 100architects conceives their projects to be used and occupied, not only to be perceived and watched.

That's 2020 Hospitality Awards Coming to Shenzhen

We are delighted to announce that the fourth annual That's National Hospitality Awards will be held in Shenzhen.

Spotlight: Benny Day, Founder of Day Design Studio

Day speaks about starting a business in China, offers advice for budding designers and discusses one of his more intriguing projects, designing vibrators.

Open Architecture Talk Building a Gallery Under a Hebei Sand Dune

Built into and beneath a sand dune on the beaches at Beidaihe district, UCCA Dune is the home of "one of the few remaining un-destroyed dunes in northern China."

Shenzhen-Built 'Idolcam' Makes Shooting Quality Videos Easier than Ever

The Idolcam can allow an everyman with little-to-no camera experience create a fairly decent video.

Neri&Hu Founders on China's Architecture Scene

Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu discuss their latest projects and challenges for China-based architects.

Inside Beijing's Minimalist Song Art Museum

The art space was recently shortlisted in the World Architecture Festival 2018's 'Culture Completed Buildings' category.

0 User Comments

In Case You Missed It…

We're on WeChat!

Scan our QR Code at right or follow us at ThatsSuzhou for events, guides, giveaways and much more!

7 Days in Suzhou With

Weekly updates to your email inbox every Wednesday

Download previous issues

Never miss an issue of That's Suzhou!

Visit the archives