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Mandala Pavilion, A Utopian City Drifting In Metropolises

One Take Architects

Special Projects  /  Completed
One Take Architects
Mandala Pavilion is an inner garden, as well as a utopian city drifting in metropolises.
This Mandala Pavilion is a temporary building, exhibited in Beijing, designed for Himalaya culture & art, brought immersing experience, created new relationships between people and space.

Though exhibited in the most bustling urban center of Beijing, Mandala Pavilion provides a completely inward and isolated space.
Its external layout is arranged like a labyrinth. The staggered steps surprise visitors with a perspective illusion, motivating their physical interaction with the building. Mingling with façade lines that resemble the skylines of Namcha Barwa, the unadorned stones isolate the building from the full-blown metropolitan atmosphere, as if it were from outer space.
It is a building that contains numerous uncertainties, fortuities, and surprises.

As a temporary building for digital art exhibition, Mandala Pavilion responds gracefully to the exhibition inside. It is designed for this specific theme – Himalaya culture & art, in order to bring immersing experience, create new relationships between people and space. It is the most important difference between Mandala Pavilion and other traditional museums.

In a closed building with a length of more than fifty meters, a height of less than five meters, and a width of less than nine meters, the architect tries to provide various kinds of experience. While moving around the building, visitors encounter different surprises. It is just like walking in a garden, where each person discovers their own path.
On the two sides facing the shops and the street, the architect made different efforts. For one thing, he ensured enough space for the shops to open as usual. For another, he strived for rich space expressions in a cramped place through very small actions. In terms of the five architectural dimensions, the building either squeezes or retreats from the urban space on its two sides, keeping itself apart but not afar.
As internal multi-media art exhibitions have strict controls on illumination, the architect completely removed outward windows and designed a double-nested space at the entrance, making it impossible for people to see the building’s inner secrets from outside. In the total darkness of its interior space, visitors rely only on the changing lights and shades.
Without windows on the façade, the scale of the building seems to be difficult to judge. When facing it, visitors lack an important yardstick to measure its heights and number of stories. This indicates that the Mandala Pavilion can exist in a form between that of a sculpture and a building, which has also given the architect motivation for further exploration.

All the blocks that make up the Mandala Pavilion can be split and reorganized into a ‘dKyil-khor’ (an inner palace or Buddha realm in Chinese Buddhism, translated as ‘mandala’ in English). This echoes an interpretation of the Mandala Sand painting: when a sand mandala is completed, a ‘dKyil-khor’ is also established in space and time.
Like a set of blocks that can be reorganized in many ways, the building’s six golden corner blocks can be nested into a complete cube with structures similar to mortise and tenon joints.
Some steps on the external layout are deliberately adjusted to different heights for people to lean back, sit, or climb. Though they cease to provide a reference point of the building’s scale, they make it more interesting and create a sharp contrast to the serious and dull urban space.

In contrast to the emphasis on a building’s solidness, the architect tries to give more graphical features to the building’s surface materials. The winding lines on its façade are in fact taken from the skylines of Namcha Barwa.
According to the most accurate description of Namcha Barwa, the mountain pierces into the blue sky like long spears, with thick white snow and dark rocks that overwhelm human eyes. Located in the deep end of the mysterious Himalayas, it hides among the clouds all year around, but is still connected with the world we are living in, sharing the same destiny.
Through theMandala Pavilion, Namcha Barwa falls into the bustling urban center, reflecting the noisy and earthly scenes of the human world. It also brings mysterious silver sparkles to the Mandala Pavilion, becoming the most romantic feature on this sparsely adorned building.

With reflections on mirror metals, exposed rough mountain stones and Galsang flowers from the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau stretch far into the building. As the foundation for the drifting Mandala Pavilion, the scattered stones return to where they belong. However, the architect does not use mountain stones and Galsang flowers to create imagery that causes alienation from cities. Instead, these stones and flowers form a path that links urban reality with Himalayan mystery, by which the Mandala Pavilion allows visitors to move freely between the real world and the alluring unconscious world of fantasies.

Utopias are unreachable, but mankind has never ceased to look for them. The Mandala Pavilion is such a place for you to discover.


 Mandala Media
 240 mq
 Li Hao
 Li Hao, Nan Xueqian
 Wang Shilu, Nan Xueqian


Li Hao
Chief Architect, One Take Architects
Founder, Program SPARK (Non-profit Education Project for Left-behind Children)

One Take Architects is a nomadic interdisciplinary laboratory with a scope of work covering public art, architectural design, product incubation, etc. And we are also looking for opportunities that have been neglected in the traditional concepts and creating the space with ‘faith’ to embrace the increasingly complex real world. "Creation" is not a one-way output, but fun and unknow journey of thought that will start together with friends.

Space is a ‘living organism’ with human-like attributes, which is supposed to have more spiritual connections with people besides the relationship of the senses If the original subordinate function is transformed into a ‘faith energy space’ of multidimensional communication, space will be separated from the function and become a subject of spiritual existence.

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