A stone's throw distance from the Bohai Sea, in Qinhuangdao, China, sits the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, or UCCA Dune. Designed by OPEN Architecture, with offices in New York and Beijing, UCCA Dune brings contemporary and original design to this stunning beach.

The curvilinear form of UCCA Dune winds over 930 metres underground, and includes multiple galleries, terraces, and viewing areas. As the museum weaves under the earth, the galleries vary in configuration, but unite in likeness. The walls are covered in plaster and present the appearance of slight imperfection, a nod to the soft waving stretch of sand outside the museum’s walls. For lighting, tunnel-shaped skylights puncture the ceiling, washing the galleries in natural light.

The organic form of the structure was inspired by the patterns in the sand made by children playing on the beach. The museum is also meant to allude to a series of caves. The relationship to caves is particularly relevant to an art museum, as caves were the first canvas for humanity’s earliest artworks.

The decision to bury the museum partially underground was an environmentally conscious one. With the museum designed to sit beneath the dunes, the views of the sea are preserved. Unlike many areas along the sea, the area surrounding UCCA Dune will be safe from development, providing a visual sanctuary for sea views for years to come.

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