Ennead Architects has completed work on a stunning new astronomy museum in Shanghai, China, the largest in the world. The curved design of the building (contains no straight lines or right angles) is inspired by the cosmos and parts of it function a bit like a large sundial, marking the passage of time.
A museum of astronomy with celestial mechanics
The Shanghai Astronomy Museum measures approximately 40.000 square meters (420.000 square feet). It includes temporary and permanent exhibits, as well as several smaller surrounding buildings. It houses a solar telescope, observatory, education and research center, theater and planetarium, as well as viewpoints and more. The overall shape of the main building is defined by three main elements: the eye, the sphere e the inverted dome.
The Eye hangs over the main entrance and traces a circle of sunlight across the ground across the entrance plaza and reflecting pool. During the summer solstice there is a full circle. At noon this circle lines up with a circular platform in the entrance square. This sort of thing has also been done in the past with modern architecture, but this is a particularly well executed example.
Inside the astronomy museum is located the sphere. With visible supports reduced to a minimum, it is designed to create the illusion of floating in midair for visitors, while its interior contains the planetarium theater.
Finally, the Inverted dome is a large inverted glass structure that rests on the central atrium of the building and is reached by a spiral ramp of 720 degrees. The area offers visitors a breathtaking view of the sky.
It is also inspired by the "problem of the three bodies"
The Shanghai Astronomy Museum is an architecturally ambitious project. Its absence of straight lines and right angles “echoes the geometry of the universe and the dynamic energy of celestial movement,” explains the company's press release. The architect Thomas J. Wong drew inspiration from the classic "Problem of the three bodies" in physics, with intricate choreographies created by the gravitational attraction of multiple bodies within the solar systems. An inspiration that is clearly reflected in the winding architectural ribbons of the facade of the Museum of Astronomy.
The Shanghai Astronomy Museum opened to visitors on July 18 and serves as the new branch of the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum, completed in 2015.