Ennead Architects won a bid to design the new Shanghai Planetarium, a branch of the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum. With a building comprising three components, or “celestial bodies”—the Oculus, the Sphere, and the Inverted Dome —the architecture is modeled after orbital motion, with each component designed to be a distinct astronomical instrument.
The Oculus is the linchpin of the Planetarium and is suspended from the cantilevered form of the museum’s galleries above. A sundial allows visitors to witness the physical passage of time via the movement of a circle of sunlight on the ground across the entry plaza and reflecting pool. “The Chinese are very tuned in to the movement of the sun and we still go by a lunar calendar. This idea of orbiting is embedded into the form,” explained Ennead Design Partner Thomas Wong.
Meanwhile, the Sphere contains the Theater and is a reference point for museumgoers. Finally, the Inverted Dome features an uninterrupted sky dome from which to view galactic goings-on through 79-foot-high solar telescopes.
Celebrating both the history of Chinese astronomy and the future of space exploration, the Planetarium is slated to transform the district. “China has a very ambitious space exploration program. And I think part of the mission of this museum is to really educate and get kids especially excited about exploring space,” said Wong.