The Void | Aranya Art Center

The Void | Aranya Art Center

When enlightened developer Aranya asked Neri&Hu to design an art center inside their seaside resort community, Neri&Hu seized the opportunity to question the notions of space for art versus communal space. Despite the straightforward brief of an art center, Aranya, as a community has a strong emphasis on the spiritual nature of their lifestyle ideology, an oneness with the environment. So the design scheme is as much about the internal courtyard, a communal space for the residents, as it is about the exhibition being displayed in the center.

Drawing inspiration from the seasonal ocean waters nearby—azure and calm in the summers, splintered ice though winter—the building design attempts to encapsulate the natural wonder of water at its core. The scheme maximizes its outer footprint but carves out a pure conical geometry at the center with a stepped amphitheater at the base. The central void space can be reconfigured and used in many ways, a water feature when filled with water, but also a functional performance and gathering place when the water is drained. The exhibition galleries above benefit from the public space integration, but it also makes the project much more than just a place for display, it is also a place for sharing.

Within the thick mass of the building volume is a series of interlocking spaces that visitors can meander freely within, slowly ascending, enjoying a choreographed journey with directed views both inward and outward. Gallery spaces are about the enjoyment of art. This project is no different in that regard, a spiraling path leads you through all the spaces, urging you onwards by the desire to see more. Starting at the bottom with the Café, Multi-purpose Gallery, and an Outdoor Amphitheater, the path guides visitors through five distinct galleries, culminating at the rooftop where you get 360-degree viewing of the activities below.

Composed primarily of various textured concretes, with and without aggregate, the façade and materiality of the building is heavy in nature, like a solid rock sitting firmly in the shifting environment. Smooth surfaces reflect the changing skies, while the molded modular units pick up on the play of shadows throughout the day. Bronze elements act as accents on the heavy façade to catch light and draw attention to the entry of each gallery. Custom lighting and details add a touch of intricacy to the otherwise modest palette. In the evening, open modules allow light to shine through, the building is a jewel at the core of this seaside community.

Gross Area
1,500 m²


Completion Date
May 2019

September 2016 – May 2019

Block 4, South Zone, Aranya Golden Coast Community, Beidaihe New District, Qinhuangdao, Hebei

Golden Trezzini Awards 2021, by Zolotoy Trezzini Ltd., RussiaAranya Art Center, Best Architectural Design for Museum, nominee
Design for Asia (DFA) Award 2020, Hong Kong Design Center, Hong Kong, ChinaAranya Art Center, Grand Award
Blueprint Design Awards 2020, BLUEPRINT Magazine, UKAranya Art Center, Best Public-use Catagroies, Shortlisted
Blueprint Design Awards 2020, by BLUEPRINT Magazine, UKAranya Art Center, Best Public-use Catagroies, Winner
The Plan Award 2020, THE PLAN Magazine, ItalyAranya Art Center, Cultural Category, Shortlisted
AZ Awards 2020, AZURE Magazine, CanadaAranya Art Center, Architecture - Commercial and institutional buildings over 1,000 square metres, Winner
FRAME Awards 2020, Frame Magazine, NetherlandsAranya Art Center, Cultural Space of the Year Category, Shortlisted
ELLE DECORATION China Interior Design Annual 2020, by Elle DecoAranya Art Center, Listed
Dezeen's top 10 Museums and Galleries of 2019, DezeenAranya Art Center
A&D Trophy Awards 2019, by Perspective Limited, Hong Kong, ChinaAranya Art Center, Best Architecture in Profession Category, Titanium Trophy
A&D Trophy Awards 2019, by Perspective Limited, Hong Kong, ChinaAranya Art Center, Best Public Space in Architecture , Best of Category
Best of Year Awards 2019, by Interior Design Magazine, New York, USAAranya Art Center, shortlist in Small Museum/Art Gallery Category
Archilovers Best Project 2019, by Archilovers WebsiteAranya Art Center
Dezeen's top 10 Chinese architecture projects of 2019, DezeenAranya Art Center