UCCA Edge: from unfinished commercial building to new art icon

Wang Jie
UCCA Edge in Shanghai has turned an unfinished commercial building into a new art icon on the city map, just north of Suzhou Creek and less than a kilometer from People's Square.
Wang Jie

Editor's note

Architecture is frozen music, an epic of stone and a cultural monument. An art museum epitomizes this.

In this "Art unfrozen: a journey through Shanghai's cultural monuments" series, we will guide you through an immersive experience, varying from the museum's special architecture style and gift shops to its cafeteria or coffee shops in the museum's neighborhood.

Aiming to level up with the world's top museums such as the Pompidou Center in Paris, the Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, and the Tate in London, the art museums in Shanghai have been blossoming in the past decade.

Visiting museums has become a lifestyle, a kind of social activity or recreation. The charm of an art museum permeates every corner.

As well as the exhibitions inside, what else can visitors enjoy on a cozy weekend afternoon at a museum?

Get ready for a museum trip!

UCCA Edge: from unfinished commercial building to new art icon

UCCA Edge in Shanghai is almost a miracle.

It turned a once unfinished commercial building into a new art icon on the city map.

Sitting just north of Suzhou Creek, the museum is less than a kilometer from People's Square and directly above the Qufu Road Station of Metro Line 8 and 12.

The UCCA Center for Contemporary Art is China's leading contemporary art institution. Founded in 2007 by Guy and Myriam Ullens as the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, UCCA later evolved into the UCCA Group in 2017, under the ownership and stewardship of a new group of patrons and shareholders.

UCCA Edge is its third museum following UCCA Beijing at the 798 Art District in 2007 and UCCA Dune lying beneath the sand in the seaside enclave of Aranya in 2018, keeping with UCCA's long-established mission to deepen lives and spark international dialogue through contemporary art.

Opened in May 2021, UCCA Edge occupies 5,500 square meters over three levels of the new Edge Tower in Shanghai's Jing'an District. The museum includes 1,700 square meters of gallery space as well as a wraparound outdoor terrace and public spaces that include a lobby and auditorium.

As an integral part of the UCCA constellation, UCCA Edge mounts exhibitions of leading Chinese and international artists – some developed exclusively for the Shanghai audience, some touring from other UCCA locations.

UCCA Edge: from unfinished commercial building to new art icon
UCCA Edge: from unfinished commercial building to new art icon

Architectural style

Housed in the 86-meter-tall Edge Tower, the design of UCCA Edge is led by Jing Liu, co-founder of New York practice SO-IL. Following previous projects by Wilmotte & Associés, OMA, and Open Architecture, this collaboration with SO-IL marks the latest partnership between UCCA and an internationally acclaimed contemporary architectural team to bring an open, accessible, multidimensional, and public-oriented museum to the Chinese audience.

The design of UCCA Edge breaks away from pre-existing building constraints, while embracing its metropolitan surroundings. The iconic UCCA logo wall that welcomes the public by the lobby escalators is immediately visible as an urban landmark.

Visitors' journeys begin with an escalator ride at street level that leads directly to the museum lobby, where they are greeted by the reception area and ushered through a generous double-height space into the first galleries and suite of amenities. Once visitors enter the galleries on this level, they can move seamlessly through all three levels of exhibition space before emerging onto a 360-degree terrace that offers views of Suzhou Creek below and the Shanghai skyline beyond.

Each floor includes both exhibition areas and functional spaces. Inside the museum, the spatial experience of its simple structure is varied by several double-height spaces, calling attention to vertical space and scale. Rooms are distinguished by acoustic plaster walls to optimize a comfortable viewing experience for visitors, while visual depth in public areas is enhanced by curved walls finished in reflective metallic.

The juxtaposition of materials is emphasized in the design throughout, not only for its aesthetics, but as a strategy to delineate the different kinds of spaces – exhibition, retail, and public – within UCCA Edge. Spare and sharp, smooth and textured, light and dark – all are organically interwoven to create a pleasing and unconventional exhibition environment.

UCCA Edge: from unfinished commercial building to new art icon

New Wave by Da Vittorio

UCCA Edge: from unfinished commercial building to new art icon


New Wave by Da Vittorio café represents a new generation of art museum coffee shop. It also hosts a bistro developed by the Michelin-starred team of Da Vittorio Shanghai.

Located on the third floor of the museum with a glasshouse terrace, the interior design of New Wave by Da Vittorio is conducted by Linehouse studio to convey an artistic atmosphere through the collision, transition, and reconstruction of different shapes and textures. Arched mirrors are installed in the restaurant to create a dramatic visual effect that adds depth and dimension to the space. Ceiling hangings made of special fabric are used to construct light and cloud-like layers. There is confrontation between contrasting textures and elements: soft and hard, smooth and coarse, orderly and disorderly, solid and transparent.

Apart from its regular coffee program, the café also provides customers with light food. Before and after a visit to the museum, art lovers can enjoy a selection of desserts, sandwiches, and different flavors of gelato, with the offerings perfect for a light afternoon snack or a quick lunch.

Bestsellers at gift shop

The UCCA store is situated at both the entrance and exit, presenting a diverse array of art derivatives. The product categories encompass fashion accessories and bags, home essentials, exhibition catalogs, and more.

"The Words of the Wise Man" plush pendant

UCCA Edge: from unfinished commercial building to new art icon

One of the highly sought-after highlight products is the plush pendant of Paul Klee's "The Words of the Wise Man." The precisely crafted and charming design, coupled with its movable body, adds a playful dimension to the art.

"Blue Nude Skipping Rope" canvas bag

UCCA Edge: from unfinished commercial building to new art icon

Another popular item is Henri Matisse's "Blue Nude Skipping Rope" embroidered canvas bag. This canvas bag draws inspiration from Matisse's iconic masterpiece, skillfully capturing the dynamic energy through meticulous stitching.

"Modern Time: Masterpieces from the Collection of Museum Berggruen"

UCCA Edge: from unfinished commercial building to new art icon

Another top bestseller is the much-loved exhibition catalog of "Modern Time: Masterpieces from the Collection of Museum Berggruen."


Opening hours: 10am-7pm

Address: 2/F, 88 Xizang Rd N.


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