New York-based Ennead Architects has been selected to design a new planetarium for the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum (SSTM), after winning the commission through an international competition. The design, led by one of the firm’s principals, Thomas Wong, AIA, and managing partner, Guy Maxwell, will focus on building a new scientific identity for the Lingang district of the city, which lies southeast of Shanghai's central business district.
Inspired by the continuum of time and space, the planetarium plans to offer futuristic views of the ambitions of China’s space exploration program, while also maintaining the rich, historic record of Chinese astronomy. The plan’s design strategy is influenced by astronomical principles, such as orbital motion.
Three “celestial bodies,” or key features, of the 409,000-square-foot design, comprise the structure’s architecture: the Oculus, the Inverted Dome, and the Sphere. Each of the three elements perform as astronomical instruments, tracking the sun, moon, and stars.
The Oculus, a suspended, central element, will demonstrate the passage of time by tracking a circle of sunlight on the ground across from the entry plaza and reflecting pool. The Inverted Dome will offer a transition “from the interior to a sublime spatial experience,” and the Sphere will house the planetarium’s theater, according to a release issued by the firm.
The Shanghai Planetarium plans to host a variety of programs, including both permanent and temporary exhibits, a digital sky theater, an optical planetarium, an IMAX theater, an education and research center, a solar telescope, a youth camp, and an observatory. Construction is slated for completion in 2018.