The world’s largest astronomy museum is in Shanghai and has opened its doors to the public on July 18th. Its shape is somehow reminiscent of the geometry of the cosmos. Thomas J. Wong of Ennead Architects, a studio based in New York and Shanghai, has worked with curves for this commission in order to transport us into space at first glance.
According to Ennead Architects, the building heightens awareness of our relationship to the sun and the Earth’s orbital motion through scale, form and the use of light. At nearly 40,000 square meters, this is the new dedicated astronomy headquarters for the Shanghai Museum of Science and Technology, which opened in 2001.
The big idea of the Shanghai Astronomy Museum was to infuse a visceral experience from the design, and to support that relationship with space from the architectureThomas J. Wong
Ennead won the international competition in 2014 with an architecturally ambitious design. It didn’t have any straight lines or right angles, reminiscent of the geometry of the universe. Inside, exhibitions will be programmed and a planetarium, observatory and solar telescope will be on view.
Wong was inspired by the classic ‘three-body problem’ of physics, looking at the intricate choreographies created by the gravitational attraction of multiple bodies within solar systems. Some of that he has sought to reflect in his new (and certainly eye-catching) work.
Each of the three main architectural components that define the design, the oculus, the inverted dome and the sphere, act as functional astronomical instruments, following the sun, the moon and the starsThomas J. Wong
The oculus is suspended above the museum’s main entrance and it acts as a clock, creating a circle of sunlight that moves across the floor throughout the day, indicating the time and season. The sphere houses the planetarium theater, half-submerged in the museum, with minimal visible support that alludes to a world of weightlessness. And the inverted dome is a large glass structure that sits atop the building’s central atrium.
Ennead Studio is also responsible for other buildings dedicated to culture around the world, including the Rose Center for Earth and Space and the American Museum of Natural History in New York; the William J. Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Arkansas; and the Natural History Museum in Utah.