Suzhou Museum is located in the northeast section of the historic quarter of Suzhou. It adjoins the landmarked Zhong Wang Fu, a complex of 19th-century historical structures, and the Garden of the Humble Administrator, a 16th-century garden listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The design of the museum takes its cues from the rich vocabulary of Suzhou's traditional architecture, with its whitewashed plaster walls, dark-grey clay tile roofs and intricate garden architecture. However, these basic elements have been reinterpreted and synthesized into a new language and order, one that is contemporary and forward looking and hopefully one that is a possible direction for the future of Chinese modern architecture.
As with traditional Suzhou architecture, the design of the art museum is organized around a series of gardens and courts that mediates between the building and its surrounding environment. The main museum garden is a contemporary extension and commentary of the Garden of the Humble Administrator to the north. As visual connections between the two properties are not possible because of the high garden walls, water is used physically and metaphorically as a bridge between the two properties.
The landscape design of the new museum garden and its smaller gallery and administrative gardens is not based on traditional and conventional approaches. Rather, new design directions and themes were sought for each of them, where the essence of traditional landscape design can be distilled and reformulated into potentially new directions for Chinese garden architecture. The museum opened to the public on Oct. 6, 2006.