Han Meilin is one of China’s preeminent contemporary artists. While he is perhaps best known internationally for his creation of the Fuwa “good luck” dolls for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, he draws his artistic inspiration from the traditional Chinese culture of the two Han dynasties and folk art, while employing a modern artistic language to express his thoughts.
After the successful openings of two art museums in Beijing and Hangzhou, Han Meilin turned his attention to the foothills of the Helan Mountain near Yinchuan. After visiting the area for the first time more than two decades ago, Han Meilin was moved by the rock paintings there, and considers their influence a turning point in his artistic life.
In 2010, Han donated 1,000 pieces of his work to the Yinchuan municipal government, and an art museum to house the works was built. The museum is at one with the mountain, looking like a natural form born out of the rock. Beijing Trycool Culture & Art Development Co., Ltd., which had worked with Han on the other two museums, was charged with creating the wayfinding system for the unique museum.
Trycool’s goals were to help visitors navigate the museum and ensure wayfinding elements blended into the built environment while mirroring the unique artistic features of Han’s work. As a result, Trycool’s wayfinding system reflects not only the spirit of the mountain and the relationship between the mountain and the museum, but also the unique artistic features of Han’s works and the rock paintings.
Trycool worked closely with Han and the project’s interior and exhibition design teams to ensure they were consistent in their approach to the modern cultural space that would feature Han’s contemporary works and honor the ancient Helan Mountain rock paintings dating from 476 BC.
The wayfinding team’s main challenges were balancing exterior signage design with the unique natural environment, as well as establishing friendly ties with the architecture. To solve these challenges, Trycool borrowed inspiration from the Helan Mountain itself. Signage forms, dimensions and materials mimic its stark lines and dramatic presence. The dramatic triangular glass exterior identification sign is in keeping with the natural backdrop but does not obscure views to it.
For the interior wayfinding system, the main challenge came from the exhibition space configuration. Some of the exhibitions are staged in open corridors, while others are in semi-closed spaces with a clear theme. Bearing this in mind, Trycool employed a unified information design with slight changes in the signage based on location.
The final solution is at one with the museum and its natural environment, with an expressly modern language that provides the information visitors need to explore Han’s work.
"The stark triangular forms inspired by the mountains are stunning in their simplicity. The inspiration to blend in with the mountain landscape, therefore honoring the impact the Helan Mountain rock paintings had on Mr. Han Meilin's artistic career, is elegantly achieved in the pure glass entrance identification forms."
"The wayfinding here is a beautiful example of how the environment that the wayfinding exists in can be an excellent form of inspiration. It not only connects conceptually to its surrounding area, but blends extremely well to the point that it becomes something more than simply a form of wayfinding."
Xiao Zhongqiao (creative director, principal in charge), ZhouYong’an (design director), Qiao Meirong (designer), Jiang Yi (project manager)
Beijing Trycool Logo & Sign (primary fabricator), Hangzhou Dianshang (interior and exhibition)