9 of the Boldest Museum Designs of 2020, From a Curved Canopy in Portugal to a Kiln-Like Ceramics Museum in China

Dec 28, 2020

Like a lot of events this year, many grand museum openings were pushed back to 2021.

Long-anticipated ribbon-cuttings—including ones at the Munch Museum in Oslo; the Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo, the Bourse de Commerce–Pinault Collection in Paris; and the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles—will now (maybe) take place next year.

While we wait, we can still safely peruse photos of some of the most impressive museum designs unveiled this year, and celebrate the ones that actually did open. Check out some of our favorites below—and join us in fantasizing about a time when we can travel to see them in person.


Image courtesy of Brick Visual.

Architect: Zaha Hadid Architects

Anticipated Date of Completion: Late 2023

Secret Sauce: In addition to employing an eco-friendly design and materials, the architects made sure the building will be easily navigable thanks to an intuitive, U-shaped floor plan.


Image courtesy of Luxigon and Kengo Kuma.

Architect: Kengo Kuma and Associates + Vladimir Djurovic

Anticipated Date of Completion: Early 2022

Secret Sauce: The curved canopy structure is part of the architects’ plan to better integrate the museum’s existing structure with the surrounding gardens, which will be expanded.


Architect: Dorte Mandrup

Anticipated Date of Completion: June 2023

Secret Sauce: After besting 37 competitors in a design competition, Mandrup’s entry was selected for its minimally invasive design that moves with the natural landscape.


Image courtesy of Rafael Viñoly Architects.

Architect: Rafael Viñoly Architects

Anticipated Date of Completion: 2024

Secret Sauce: The use of steel and stilts is intended to evoke the strength of the armed forces. According to Dezeen, Viñoly visualized the idea for the museum’s form after lifting a heavy slab of metal and considering “the burdens faced by the armed forces.”


The Imperial Kiln Museum in Jingdezhen, China, designed by Studio Studio Zhu-Pei. Image courtesy of Studio Zhu-Pei.

Architect: Studio Zhu-Pei

Anticipated Date of Completion: Opened 2020

Secret Sauce: It may come as little shock that the Imperial Kiln Museum was actually designed to look like…a kiln. The museum is comprised of more than six vault-shaped structures, constructed out of recycled kiln bricks, that include skylights inspired by the smoke holes on real kilns.


A rendering of ZJA’s Docking the Amsterdam project. Courtesy of ZJA.

Architect: ZJA

Anticipated Date of Completion: Unknown

Secret sauce: The museum will be built around a 271-year-old shipwreck, which will be excavated from the English Channel and moved back to Amsterdam. The architects designed what is essentially a giant glass and steel viewing room, so that visitors can see the ruins of the ship from all angles.


Architect: B+H Architects, 3XN and Zhubo Design

Anticipated Date of Completion: Unknown

Secret Sauce: The building was designed to evoke the flowing form of a river, thanks to a curved, meandering design.


Architect: Snøhetta

Anticipated Date of Completion: 2022

Secret Sauce: The museum’s soaring barrel vaults mirror the clouds on the El Paso skyline, and the lookout points throughout the building will allow for stunning views of the mountains around the city.


Image courtesy of Lacime Architects. Photo by CAAI.

Architect: Lacime Architects

Anticipated Date of Completion: Opened 2020

Secret Sauce: The art gallery, which anchors a new cultural hub in the Binhai New Area district, was designed to look like a giant wave, and the thousands of aluminum tiles used in the construction mimic rippling water.