Design Society, a new cultural hub in the bustling megacity of Shenzhen, China, will open on December 2 with the launch of the Sea World Culture and Arts Center (SWCAC), designed by Japanese architect and Pritzker Prize winner Fumihiko Maki. The hub is a collaboration between London’s Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) and China Merchants Shekhou, an urban developer that is part of the China Merchants Group, and represents the first partnership between a Chinese corporation and an international museum.

Joining Coop Himmelblau’s Shenzhen Contemporary Museum of Art and the cultural institutions and galleries in the OCT Loft, a creative arts district in a former industrial area of the city, the SWCAC represents another sign of the city’s burgeoning design identity and a bid to bolster China’s place in the global arts scene. For the The project is Maki’s first project in China, and was commissioned by China Merchants Shekou in 2011.

The arts complex, located on the Shekhou harbor, is distinguished by three white stone-and-glass volumes that cantilever out from a central podium building, with a glass opening at the end of each jutting mass that faces in three distinct directions, towards the water, the city, and the nearby park. The building also doubles as a landscape, with a rooftop park accessible to the public via two grand staircases at either end of the site, allowing visitors to take in views of the water and surrounding cityscape. Within the building, a central passageway connects the three main plazas and provides access to all the levels of the building.

In total, the SWCAC offers 760,000 square feet of exhibition space over six floors, covering a footprint of 280,000 square feet. Maki envisioned the SWCAC as a “mini city,” and so, along with six galleries, which includes a gallery dedicated to the V&A’s own collection, the center also includes a theater, multi-purpose hall, restaurants and retail shops.

For those curious about Maki or his design, one of the three opening exhibitions at SWCAC will present a retrospective of the architect’s 60-year career and a close look at the design process behind creating the building itself, titled Nurturing Dreams in Recent Work: Fumihiko Maki + Maki and Associates. 

The December 2 kickoff for Design Society and the SWCAC will include an extensive public program of events and exhibitions. The other opening exhibitions include Values of Design at the V&A Gallery, which will examine the relationship between values and design through over 250 objects from the V&A permanent collection, and Minding the Digital, a speculative digital design exhibit held at the Main Gallery, curated by Design Society and designed by MVRDV.

Related Stories