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Small on the outside and immense inside. Relicase encountered master architect Álvaro Siza

Author:    Time:November-25-2020 10:34    Reading volume:260


Huamao Museum of Art Education located by the shore of Dongqian Lake in Ningbo was officially opened to the public on November 21, 2020. This is the first art education themed museum in China. The museum was designed by world renown Portuguese architect, Alvaro Siza and his partner Carlos Castanheira. Alvaro Siza was Pritzker Laureate in 1992 and is known to be one of the most influential contemporary architects. Huamao Museum is currently the only “black” piece among Siza’s works. Relicase was honored to contribute to the great work, and carry out a “dialogue” with this world’s leading architect.

lvaro Siza(Right) & Carlos Castanheira doing site research in Ningbo,2014

The practice of Siza and Castanera in Asia began with Paju Bookstore in Korea, and then entered into China. The emphasis on the geometric purity of architecture deeply influenced Siza's style. Siza's works distinctively reveal the tendency of abandoning decorations. As he once said, waste in architecture is something that depresses him, even in the use of light. Siza's buildings barely adopt any decorative elements, but still stand out by their simple and sharp figures of fundamental geometric shapes in rich diversity. Huamao Museum of Art Education is a perfect example of this style.

The building is covered in corrugated aluminium - a darker hue to the environment. With the change of sunlight and aspects, visual color of the building varies from black to silver accordingly.


If the museum is like a model sculpture surrounded by trees, windows and porches will the carvings of this sculpture. Strong contrast, tricky proportion, varying dimensions and light shades all deliver the sense of sculpture and tranquility.

Best works of the master are more than buildings. They are containers of light and space embedded in the regional context. As a special virtual material, light imparts tangible and perceptible artistic effects to buildings with its own invisibility.

Siza is undoubtedly a master of light. In his works, spaces are constantly rendered by carefully organized light inside and out. The master also applied the magic of light and shadow to Huamao Museum of Art Education, making the whole building lively and intense.


In several projects in Asia, especially museums, Siza and Castanella seem to have adopted a strategy that points inward: creating a self-sufficient, boundless world within a sculptural volume.

If the mystique black exterior of Huamao Museum of Art Education is a trick to draw attention, the interior of a white pure world is a return to the style better known as Siza's work. Bending and folding, amplification and contraction, openness and limitation are completely reversed into the interior of the building.


The varied geometry of the ramps within the museum creates a dynamic change in the Spaces. With every step, the viewer's perspective changes, and so does the scene in his vision. And  every turn he takes, is a look back.

As Siza and Castanella put it in their poetic project introduction: Small on the outside and immense inside. / A Museum must be big. Inside. / A Museum must be bright. Inside.

The interior space of Siza's works is a floodlit world. By special arrangement of windows, light is captured into the interior patios and diffused into the surrounding space softly and charmingly. With the enclosure and opening of the space interface and the compression and expansion of the space volume, people consciously roam around and savor the beauty of architecture in the change of light.

Relicase finishes this chapter of the art of internal light at its best.

Relicase undertook  for Custom display cases of the museum and completed a successful delivery in January 2020. For this contemporary "special" of Alvaro Siza's minimalist aesthetic, Relicase is committed to its mission.

We made thinnest frames at top and bottom (70mm&80mm respectively), give the showcase a sense of light and brisk. 7mm flat LED lighting panels were used to cover the inner surface of the top, integrating seamlessly like a whole. The adoption of 8+8mm anti-reflective glass promised a clear view of exhibits.



The opening access also caused the designers a lot of trouble. Regular design demands more space which will increase thickness of the frames and damage the aesthetics. We finally worked out a sliding device consists of electrical actuators and steel string gears. The coexistence of aesthetics and practicality, which is rooted in the core of design, is the constant goal of Relicase’s innovation.

Isn’t immense inside the characteristic of Relicase, too? Focusing on every tiny detail to extend charms of each exhibit. The museum showcases Relicase fabricated for Huamao Museum of Art Education shine like crystal, adorning boundless white space of the museum's interior. Under the projection and interlacing of light and shadow, they become so vivid that they seem to be dancing with the museum in harmony.

Photographer:Hou Bowen