The Art of Timber Construction – Exhibition at the Architekturmuseum, München

Architekturmuseum – Pinakothek der Moderne

The Art of Timber Construction – Chinese Architectural Models
till 28 February 2010

If China should be associated with one single architectural picture, one could select almost any temple of the country with an overhanging hip roof and slightly upturned eaves at the corners. The correlation would instantly be understood, as no other structural shape has been as closely associated with its country over the centuries. However, the fact, that this characteristic roof style directly shows a complicated timber construction, is largely unknown. European historians of architecture as well as countless visitors of the country, who marvel at the still existing breathtaking temple buildings, rarely understand their artful building structure.

Chinese Architectural Models

Main Hall, Nanchansi Temple, Wutai, Shanxi Province (Tang Dynasty, 782)

It was only in the 20th century, that the construction of Chinese overhanging roofs became subject of scientific research, with models for the study of the complicated system of interlocking building elements playing a major role. These absolutely precise scale models also serve as documentation and preservation aids, thus providing the basis for renovation and reconstruction works.

At present, the Chinese Academy of Cultural Heritage in Beijing houses the biggest model collection of important historical Chinese buildings. For the Munich exhibition, compiled in cooperation with the Academy, 17 representative models have been selected. Just like the original buildings, these artful and historically outstanding works of the 1950s, mainly on the scale of 1:20, have been built of the Chinese Nan-wood. Their uniqueness is based on an almost incredible craftsman’s precision, since every single element has been carefully copied, thus explaining and depicting the complex and elaborate structure.

Chinese Architectural Models

Guanyin Tower, Dule Monastery (Dule Si), Jixian, Hebei Province (Liao Dynasty, 984)
© Chinese Academy of Cultural Heritage, Beijing

Chinese Architectural Models

Bracketing System (dougong), (Song Dynasty 960-1279)

The show will present temple buildings from the 8th to the 15th century, among them models of the oldest Chinese timber constructions, such as the Nanchan temple (Tang dynasty, 782 AD, Wutai, Shanxi Province), the Foguang temple (Tang dynasty, 857 AD, Wutai, Shanxi Province), and the Guanyin hall of the Dule monastery (Liao dynasty, 984 AD, Tanjin, Jixian Province). A highlight of the exhibition will be the models of the Yongle-Palace in Ruicheng (Yuan dynasty, 1271-1368, Shanxi Province), consisting of four halls, as well as the 5-metre model of the 270 hectare Temple of Heaven-complex (Ming and Qing dynasty, since 1420, Beijing), one of the most famous constructions worldwide. Several of these exhibits belong to the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage.

Chinese Architectural Models

Model of a Qing-period hall with simple hipped roof

This unique collection of the Chinese Academy of Cultural Heritage in Beijing will be shown – for the first time outside of China – at the Architekturmuseum der TU München. Together with photographs, architectural surveys and detailed explanations, the models convey a fascinating insight into the beauty and technique of timber construction and the ancient tradition of Chinese architecture, whose importance can only be appreciated after comprehending its structure. However, the models are not only of historical interest, as they have inspired the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei – according to his own statement – for some of his works, to be seen in a current exhibition at the Haus der Kunst in Munich.

Courtesy Pinakothek der Moderne


Stampfli & Turci – Art Dealers

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~ by Stampfli & Turci on January 21, 2010.

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