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Ma Yansong decorates abandoned building with fishing-net installation


Architect Ma Yansong has created Timeless Beacon, an installation constructed from multicoloured fishing nets and reflective film that covers an abandoned market building in China.

The installation envelops an abandoned three-storey waterfront market building in Taiping Xu in the Guangdong province of China, which was once a bustling commercial area for trading.

Photo of Timeless Beacon
Timeless Beacon was created by Ma Yansong. Photo is by FangFang

The structure’s lower floors were wrapped vertically in ribbons of reflective film that aim to blur the facade of the building with its surroundings.

“A three-story building is wrapped in reflective film, a new material that blurrily mirrors the surrounding old streets through the building’s facade and inner space, respectively,” Ma, who is the founder of architecture studio MAD, said.

Exterior photo of Timeless Beacon
The installation covers the exterior of an abandoned market building. Photo is by FangFang

Multicoloured fishing nets cover the third floor, as well as the entire waterfront-facing side. These stretch to the top of the building, where a cylindrical tower fitted with a lighting system has been placed on the roof.

The rainbow-hued fishing nets were fixed to the top of the cylindrical tower, which supports and anchors the nets that form a veil over the structure.

Photo of the street and Timeless Beacon
Reflective ribbons mirror the surroundings

“At the top, a towering multimedia light device is enveloped in colorfully delicate pieces of cloth, fluttering in the wind romantically,” said Ma.

Visitors are invited to enter the Timeless Beacon building and walk around between its levels.

Ma originally wrapped the whole building in vertical ribbons of film, but these were later destroyed by a storm which led the practice to use fishing nets for the top parts of the building.

“Using this material is challenging, it has to be transparent, reflective and flexible,” Ma said.

“After we finished construction there was a big storm and many joints were broken. We call it a failure on the material experiment. Now we completed the work with this new fishing net.”

Photo of installation
A fishing net veil covers the building. Photo is by FangFang

At night the structure transforms into a “lighthouse” for the village that glows and forms an illuminated pillar along the waterfront.

Ma was commissioned to create the installation by Guangdong Nanhai Art Field – an annual arts and culture festival that showcases contributions from international artists and designers.

Photo of the installation from street level
A light tower was placed on the roof of the building

Timeless Beacon is said to symbolise the “vitality and rebirth from the ruins” that reflects the history of the former market area, which was described by the studio as a bustling and flourishing trading fair that was established during the Ming Dynasty.

“We hope to create a sense of vitality and rebirth from the ruins, so that people can feel new energy and perception from the old structure, as well as new understanding of time to this whole area,” Ma said.

Photo of the tower
It is a symbol of vitality and rebirth. Photo is by Lu Yu

The installation is on show until the summer of 2024.

In 2021, Ma unveiled an artwork in a rural tea field in China that was informed by its surrounding natural setting.

More recently, Ma and his team at MAD teamed up with Dezeen to host a talk about the future of Beijing, together with architect Peter Cook and the founders of Drawing Architecture Studio.


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