Case Study of Architect Christopher Lee

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Christopher Lee is an immigrant architect from Malaysia. He was born and raised in Taiping Perak. He graduated with AA Diplona (honours) from AA. Lee completed his Doctor of Philosophy in Architecture and Urbanism from the Berlage Institute and TU Delft. His favorite architects are Rem Koolhaas, Kazuo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa. Chris lee is the founder of SERIE ARCHITECTS based in London with his partner Kapil Gupta. The firm's projects now span all over the world with commissions in India, China, Eastern Europe and United Kingdom. SERIE is known for their theoretical view that emphasizes the study of building typologies and their evolution.

The selected building to be discuss in this paper is Yan ZhenQing Museum which located in Linyi, Shandong Province, China. The museum is set on a hilly site with 8,265 square meter in Linyi. Yan ZhenQing was an important calligrapher during 8th century who lived in Shandong Province in China. The museum house a collections of the calligrapher's works. In his calligraphic script has strong essence of vertical element.The architect apply the local culture and the calligrapher's character into the architecture.

The aim of this paper was to analyze the external contributing factors that affect in design strategies of the museum and its theories of architecture that applied in the design. The impact of climate, theories and social culture towards the building were investigated through a series of diagrams.



Linyi has seasonal variation climate with overheating hot, humid summer and underheating cold, dry winter. The climate affects building orientation, size and position of fenestration and facade materials. Yan ZhenQing Museum is placed on a series of three terraces that rise slightly above the topography that merged closely with the terrain of site. Each level of terrace contain pavilions that placed next to each other along the terrain to minimize the east and west facade area in order to reduce the heat gain during the hot summer season. When the pavilions are set next to each other, shaded areas are created between the transition spaces so the visitors feel more intimate with the surrounding landscape.

At the exhibition pavilions, the collections of artifacts are protected from direct sunlight. The solution is to create high ceiling with skylights for the pavilions to introduce natural daylight indirectly. The skylights are open up at the west like a paper flipping up from the surface. The daylight intensity inside the building will change throughout the day when the position of the sun changed to enrich the poetic feeling in the museum. The pavilions are mostly cover up with solid wall with only a few openings. This is to prevent heat loss during the winter time.

The arrangement of the pavilions in a random manner like rolling dices have high potential to capture more wind. Besides, it allows more wind to flow through the surrounding from multitude direction. In comparison, building blocks that arranged in cluster manner restricted the wind to flow around the pavilions . The pavilions rise slightly according to the topography also helps to maximize the wind capture during summer as they did not blocked by opposite pavilions.


The interior layout of Yan ZhenQing Museum strongly reflects the ancient Chinese calligraphy composition. The spaces were divided orderly into a grid manner even the orientation of the pavilions do not emphasis on the orderly discipline of the Chinese calligraphy composition. Yan ZhenQing's calligraphic script also composed in a regular script. The architect wants to create a minimalist space with a simple layout to enhance the focus on artifacts within a space. The exhibition hall can be define as a pure content and clear border space with soft natural lighting from skylight which allow the visitors to engage with the collections of art works in a more poetic feeling. Moreover, the reading discipline of Chinese script also influence the circulation of the museum. The Chinese scripts are read from right to left. So, the museum's human circulation flow also tour the visitors from the right to the left and across the pavilions. The pavilions were designed into a perfect square to reflect the Chinese regular script which is wrote in a regular column. The facade of the pavilions are fluted in a vertical way to create a rhythmic pattern which similar to the calligraphic script vertical sequence. The pattern also comparable to the traditional Chinese houses ceramic roofing tiles to offer a more cultural ambient to the museum.

The spatial planning of the museum also similar to the traditional Chinese Scholar's Garden and Chinese Courtyard House which the most private spaces and precious objects are always placed at the deepest end of the building. In a scholar's garden, an entrance hall for welcoming the visitors is the most public place and following by several pavilions and gardens before reach the celestial hall. Celestial hall is a sacred place that carry out ceremony related to the sky or heaven. For the Chinese courtyard house, principal room was located at the deepest end of the house whereas the maid's rooms are placed at the. Yan ZhenQing museum also apply the same principle by placing the artifacts at the last terrace of pavilions to mark it as the most important place in the museum. Ancient Chinese urban planning also planned in a grid system and apply same spatial planning. Imperial palace was placed at the middle end of the city and surrounded with the citizen with the separation of streets.

In Yan ZhenQing museum, colonnade act as the threshold that connect the pavilions and the gardens. In traditional scholar's garden, pavilions also joint with colonnade to act as a threshold to connect a space to another new space. The planning of the museum has adopted many local traditional culture into the architecture.


Critical regionalism provides architecture that meet the terms with modern and tradition. Chinese architecture has strong influenced by local civilization especially when designing museum. From the overview of Yan ZhenQing museum, especially from the plan of the project, the concept of the museum somehow similar to the traditional Chinese courtyard house. Traditional Chinese courtyard house had a front courtyard before entering the secondary gate and a main courtyard located in the middle of the house to act as public space for the big unit. The courtyard becomes a space that link and hold the secondary spaces together as a whole structure. Yan ZhenQing museum has several courtyard gardens to stress the concept of local culture. The courtyard gardens are set in between the pavilions to function as public space for the visitors. The traditional courtyard house was walled to have privacy and security purpose. Yan ZhenQing Museum also framed up by the long colonnades to give a clear boundary to the site.

Yan ZhenQing Museum is nestled among the hills far away from the chaos of growing metropolises. In considering the harmonious of nature, the museum was designed in straightforward form to maintain a monastic quality, to blend with the surrounding landscape. The pavilions are rise slightly following the terrain to make it seem likes a part of the landscape, set on the same plane with the terrain. The building always has a clear boundary that lifts the building from the landscape to treat the building as a landscape and the impression of walking along a garden path. Traditional monastery and garden also nested far away from the bustle city to achieve a healing and meditative place.

Yan ZhenQing Museum also has a great influence by modern architecture style. The concept of the museum also emphasis on the vertical and horizontal elements. The long colonnades that framed the pavilions show a series of horizontal boxes from the plan view. The orthogonal shape of the pavilions has a very straightforward with its materials used with 90 degree at each edges. The pavilions only clad with ceramic tiles to bring out simplicity of the building that coherent with the genuine collections of Yan ZhenQing calligraphic script which displayed in the pavilions. Other than that, the purpose of only using one material is to stand out the exhibit work rather than overwhelming the space by the architecture.

The facades pattern mimicked the bold vertical stroke of calligraphic script, and the roof line of the pavilions and colonnades emphasis on light horizontal elements to balance the nature. The facade of the pavilions are very simple and clear with its edges. Modern architecture emphasize on the simplicity of forms and eliminate unnecessary detail on the building.

The combining of forms into beautiful wholes is one definition of architecture. ( Colin Davies,2011). The museum was called as a whole building only with including the courtyards and colonnades. The programs of the museum was collected by courtyards and colonnades. Visitors will move through these courtyards both horizontally and vertically. The reception and shops of the museum are located at the lowest terrace, and the visitors will move up to a terrace with education and public facilities, and reach the exhibitions at the top level. The colonnades serve as the main circulation of the building and also as a threshold for each pavilions. When the visitors move along the colonnades, it show the horizontal circulation whereas when the visitors move from courtyard to courtyard, it is highlighting on vertical movement.

In another view, the museum is broke down into several blocks and arrange on different axes rather than a single block like general museum. The gardens are enclosed within the asymmetrical spaces between the orthogonal pavilions, the plan of the museum show the deconstructivism architecture. The fragment arrangement allowing the nature to contrast with architecture. The architecture of the museum is to demonstrate its detachment in the landscape and framing the nature as a reference point on the site. The interior exhibition spaces also divided into smaller orthogonal spaces. When the pavilions are shifted at different angle, the visitors entering a new pavilion from another pavilion will feel new to the space as it is not a common arrangement like the previous one. Most of the exhibition rooms are designed with high ceiling with skylight, lit up the room with soft natural sunlight. The position of the interior sunlight rays also varies. The middle pavilion has a brighter room if compare to the another two adjacent pavilions. The skylight of the middle pavilions are facing directly to the evening sun. The design intention is to offer the visitor a more spacious viewing of the work displayed with different angle of natural lights and shadows. The overall setting of the pavilions create a more poetic atmosphere to the museum by deconstructivism architecture.


The aim of this paper is to analyze the factors that affect the architecture of Yan ZhenQing Museum. The climate of the site affects the design of the building in terms of building orientation and fenestration. Sunlight is the most critical impact that affecting the design of the building. Skylights are used instead of window due to the protection of the collections in the pavilions. The museum in China might share the same characteristics with other building, but architect needs to understand the culture of the local context , and apply the concept appropriately with evidence. Christopher Lee says, “That is, you take the most common and make them special.”