National Maritime Museum – Architecture is dynamic; as it does accumulate fluidity in every aspect it could and do support the aspect to its context and purpose. But what does the architecture holds for the humankind for the future. Architecture has shown tremendous transformations in terms of technology and sustainability where buildings have become strong assets to the city creating social and cultural impact. The purpose of architecture has grown beyond aesthetics; it’s about how human lives are affected and learn through the awareness. Here, we explore an example why architecture is moving towards a better future.

National Maritime museum,Tianjin,China by Cox Architecture - Sheet1
The Whale, Coastal building at Northern Norway_©Inhabitat Unbound_ Buildings as a tool to create public awareness.

Emerging Trends | National Maritime Museum

China’s latest landmark, National Maritime Museum, an 80,000 Sft, positioned on the port harbour, outside the city of Tianjin, close to Beijing, which aims to become a catalyst in promoting the  public’s awareness of sea protection , marine research and culture. As a winning project through an international competition at 2013 and it’s one of its kind of project as symbol of dynamic architecture in new china, where it falls out into the bay of large waterfront parkland promoting reclamation as a strategy. Functionally, the idea was to encourage the public to rampart which converges to other spaces. Segmenting the halls covering new and ancient maritime activities, focusing on the evolution of Chinese naval exploration through ages, the plaza ensures that it doesn’t appear to be an unchanging structure. 

“The National Maritime Museum of China is justified in its ‘landmark’ status…it is a remarkable building borne of a remarkable process. It is a project that’s totally at home on the global stage. It is a testament to the commitment of our open-minded and collaborative client and to our team, whose talent and tenacity in equal measure ensured this building stayed true to its vision in every possible detail”, the National director of COX Brendon Gaffney explained.

National Maritime museum,Tianjin,China by Cox Architecture - Sheet2
National Maritime Museum – Overview_©Cox architecture
National Maritime museum,Tianjin,China by Cox Architecture - Sheet3
Museum adjacent to waterfront parkland_©Cox architecture

Architecture has not just been an aesthetically approving but a significant impact on humankind as it takes cues from the complications caused and provide a timely awareness to public where it helps every individual to take considerate action to contribute for a better vision in future.

The Inspirations and Innovations

The strategy was to brief the central “Preface hall “ acting as a hub and then radiating out from this hub are the exhibit and themed halls at two levels, as  the central hub could connect from each level by the movement of the visitors and the succession of artefacts. This planning actually creates an impact of depression on the parkland forming water bodies’ from the harbour which creates a  visual impact as it can be a floating exhibits and bringing water into the site to contextually contemplate the purpose.

Aerial view (North-west)_ ©Australian – Architects.

The objective was more of engaging “water” into this contemporary proposal where it would engage the public with multiple experiences. The building takes its distinctive fluid form with obvious references of depicting water and its varied maritime interpretations of being a rolling wave or open hand asking for help from water creating awareness through architecture. The sense of architecture here was to create a diversion in style from monumental to human – centric as the future lies on humans handle every possible resource, so that our future generations do not cease to survive.

The Forethought

The museum is a commemorative intervention where the idea belonged to celebrate China’s maritime evolution. It depicts the evolution in four wings based on themes; “The ancient ocean”, “Ocean today”, “Journey of discovery”, “The age of dragon “, converging into the central Preface hall. It includes 6 display halls and 15 interconnected exhibitions arena. Apart from museum on China’s maritime evolution. it houses a plaza for maritime re-enactments with other open-air events, fishing and craft village with a marine botanic garden, manifested with an observing tower facing the parkland as an energy plant, where the energy for the building is drawn 100 m below the buildings. In this way, the space behaves as user oriented so that visitors are provided an opportunity to learn and explicate China’s maritime evolution in relation to events in Europe, America, and wider Asia.

National Maritime museum,Tianjin,China by Cox Architecture - Sheet4
Display halls and exhibit arena_ ©Cox architecture
National Maritime museum,Tianjin,China by Cox Architecture - Sheet5
Exhibits on Maritime evolution_ ©Australian – Architects
National Maritime museum,Tianjin,China by Cox Architecture - Sheet7
Sections through exhibition halls_ ©Australian – Architects.

The spaces are stimulated by the local context referring; “anemone”,”corals”,”vessels“ at the port harbour of china, not as obvious which act as ingenious details for the experience and explorations within the building. The features covered are of Nature and Ocean Hall, World Maritime Civilisation Hall, Chinese Marine culture Hall and Historic vessels Hall.

Visitors are directed to an elevated access at entrance and splits into two segments which then converges into respective exhibits, which strategies the service zones for each hall positioned under with direct lower level access to the respective zones.

The Interpretation | National Maritime Museum

The museum measures about 80,000 Sq.m on total site area of 150,000Sq.m. Of that are exhibits about 39,000 Sq.m and was required to take parametric modelling due to its complex form and it was one of highly digitalised module to be worked with. The facia is aluminium facade with rain screen, standing beam, interior lining, symphonic drainage lining and an insulation cover to finish with. This structure possesses the largest cantilever which runs along the span of about 42 m in length.

As the infrastructure lies on the bay of port harbour, giant seismic portals, each resting on giant balls to move when there’s seismic disruption. The symphonic drainage running on the façade collects the grey water and stores it for dry months. High efficiency solar panels are used in addition to underground thermal heating.

City : Tianjin, China
Year : 2019
Client: National Maritime Museum Preparatory Office Chinese Government and Tianjin Municipality
Key Consultants: Arup, Lord Cultural Resources, Urbantect


  1. Christele Harrouk. “COX Architecture’s National Maritime Museum of China Opens to the Public” 11 Mar 2020. Arch Daily.. Available at :> ISSNImage 719-8884. [Accessed 28 Aug 2022]
  2. Joan Marset. (2020). Understanding better of China’s Maritime past, Architecture Research. Metalogous, Available at:[ Accessed: 28 August 2022]
  3. WA Contents. (2020). COX architecture completes China’s first National maritime museum inspired by aquatic references, Architectural Research. Available at: [ Accessed: 28 August 2022]

Varsha Mini Veronica, an architect and urban enthusiast, driven by desire to envision modes of sustainability through design as a tool highlighting architectural writing as the medium to critique, create a demand for better architecture for society. Her strengths include her as a vertical thinker, as she believes in developing platforms that are not just human- centric but to address the livability of the environment.