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February 18, 2012

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New museum for 'exhausted hearts'

THE Aurora Museum in Shanghai opened in style with an exhibition by Italian luxury goods maker Bvlgari.

Prominent Japanese architect Tadao Ando designed the museum, which is in a renovated old building.

From a distance, the museum along the Huangpu River in the Pudong New Area looks like a jewelry box, which may explain why Bvlgari selected the venue for its "125 Years of Italian Magnificence" exhibit.

A special Elizabeth Taylor Hall showcases some of the late actress' jewels for the first time in China. The collection was purchased by Bvlgari at Christie's auction in December.

Ando says his favorite place in the six-story museum is a corner on the fifth floor.

"Here is the best place to view the magnificent scenery of the Bund," Ando says. "When you look outside, you see the Bund, about 100 years of history. But when you turn back, you find these Chinese antiques with maybe thousands of years of history. It is an incredible visual experience."

However, Ando initially refused to design the museum when approached by Chen Yung-tai, chairman of Aurora Group and a collector of Chinese antiquities.

"My schedule was fully occupied at the time," Ando says. "I am a perfectionist. Every year I receive invitations from around the world for nearly 100 projects, yet I can only pick three."

Chen's persistence and enthusiasm for art, along with the museum's location on the banks of the Huangpu River, convinced Ando it was a worthy project.

"I am always happy to design for those who have dreams," says Ando, who has never had any formal education in architecture. He learned by studying the buildings he saw while traveling in Japan, Europe, the United States and Africa.

Aurora Museum is rather different from his other projects as it required the renovation of an existing structure, rather than starting from scratch.

The interior of the museum tries to communicate the concept of a "cultural jewel box."

Ando uses geometric simplicity to reveal a subtlety and richness in the space.

The architect rejects the rampant consumerism visible in much of today's architecture, responding both sensitively and critically to chaotic urban environments.

Ando specializes in creating enclosed spaces, using walls to establish a human zone to counter the monotony of commercial architecture.

Aside from the Bvlgari exhibition, the museum is also displaying Chen's collection of Chinese antiquities that includes thousands of pieces of jade objects, Buddhist images, ceramics and porcelains on the 4th and 5th floors.

Chen wanted to build a museum that showcases his collection, which has taken decades to gather.

As for the museum, Ando sums it up: "In my eyes, it is a place of heaven to escape the outside hustle and bustle, where a exhausted heart could relax and be soothed."

Date: Through April 17 (closed on Mondays), 10am-6pm

Address: 99 Fucheng Rd, Pudong

Admission: 60 yuan


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