Ennead Architects has completed the world’s largest astronomy museum, set within an expansive green zone in Shanghai, China. The monumental new museum, which opens on July 18, 2021, is designed without straight lines or right angles, echoing the geometry of the universe and the dynamic energy of celestial movement. Its dynamic form creates an immersive experience that places visitors in direct engagement with real astronomical phenomena.
“In making this building, we wanted to create a place where the institutional mission is fully enmeshed with a modern architecture that itself is teaching, and finds form in some of the fundamental principles that shape our universe,” notes Thomas J. Wong, design partner at Ennead Architects. “The big idea of the Shanghai Astronomy Museum was to infuse a visceral experience of the subject matter into the design, and to deliver that before you even enter the building. And at the end of your visit, there is this culminating moment directly with the sky, which is framed and supported by the architecture.”
At 420,000 square feet (39,000 sqm), the new astronomical branch of the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum is the largest museum worldwide solely dedicated to the study of astronomy. Through scale, form, and the manipulation of light, the building heightens awareness of our fundamental relationship to the sun and the sarth’s orbital motion. For its design, Ennead drew from the classic “three-body problem”‘ in physics, looking to the intricate choreographies created by gravitational attraction of multiple bodies within solar systems.
The museum’s façade features winding architectural ribbons, while its envelope traces a series of arcing paths that are visibly influenced by gravitational pull: the heart of the central atrium, the forward momentum at the entry, and the planet-like sphere that envelopes the planetarium theater. The museum and each of the three principal architectural components that define the design – the oculus, inverted dome and sphere – act as functioning astronomical instruments, tracking the sun, moon, and stars.
Suspended above the main entrance to the museum, the oculus demonstrates the passage of time by tracking a circle of sunlight on the ground across the entry plaza and reflecting pool. At noon during the summer solstice, there is a full circle, which aligns with a circular platform within the museum’s plaza. Meanwhile, the sphere, which houses the half-submerged planetarium theater, evokes an illusion of weightlessness or anti-gravity. Its pure spherical form references the primordial shapes in our universe and, like the orientation we yield from our position relative to the sun or moon, becomes an ever-present reference point for the visitor. Embedded in the roof plane of the lower museum wing, as if rising out of the earth-bound horizon, it gradually emerges into view as one rounds the building.
Another spatial feature of the Astronomy Museum by Ennead Architects is the inverted dome, a large inverted glass tension structure that sits on top of the central atrium of the building. Set at the roof line, it allows visitors to occupy the center of the glass dish with an unimpeded view of the sky. The culmination of the exhibit journey, this space cuts the view of the horizon and adjacent urban context and focuses the visitor on the all-encompassing sky – a real encounter with the universe to conclude the simulated experience within. The 720-degree spiraling ramp inside the museum and underneath the inverted dome traces the orbital flow of the visitor sequence throughout the museum exhibits and launches the eye upward to its apex. Also we recommend you to check 10 largest stadiums in the world