MEET OUR THEA AWARD RECIPIENT FOR OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT: SCIENCE CENTER
Shanghai Astronomy Museum Shanghai, China Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement-Science Center Overview
Nestled in Shanghai’s sprawling new Pudong District is a brand new, international award-winning planetarium: Shanghai Astronomy Museum.From afar, its structure appears celestial and extraterrestrial, and one can only stand in awe of its otherness; from up close, its facade comprisesof winding architectural ribbons, no straight lines, and three salient design components of the Oculus, Inverted Dome, and Sphere.The world’s largest astronomy museum spans a total construction area of 38,164 square meters and utilizes bold immersive spaces andimaginative experiences to exhibit astronomy, a ‘hard science’, as something palatable and personal to visitors, young and old. Visitors areinvited to lie on lounges on the floor of an exhibit, where the ceiling and surrounds mimic the night sky and create a surreal ‘stargazing’experience. A unique visitor experience was created around the three foundational questions to the meaning of life, religion, and the world aswe know it: ‘where are we?’, ‘where did we come from?’, and ‘where are we going?’, which became the backstory to over 300 exhibits in threegalleries aptly named ‘Home’, ‘Universe’, and ‘Journey’.Notably, the museum also contains a 720-degree spiraling ramp in its interior, an IMAX theatre, an 18 meter optical planetarium, and a 24meter-high solar telescope. The last two research-oriented facilities are available for booking. Special exhibitions like ‘Astronomy in China’,‘Curious Planet’, and ‘A Voyage to Mars’, are open to public viewing.
What sets this attraction apart?
Meaningful integration - Each exhibit’s design fully capitalizes on the opportunities afforded by the museum’s architectural features. Each space, whether it be a long corridor, narrow space, bridge, or dome, is carefully and purposefully crafted for the exhibit, and the museum itself is rife with symbolism. Visitors are encouraged to momentarily forget the limitations of space and time in the museum, leaving reality and Earth behind as the perspective of ‘seeing the Earth’ is enlarged.
Meaningful storytelling - In framing the contents of its exhibits around the three philosophical questions humans often have, and using the three ‘Look at the Earth’ moments, the storytelling is done in an intensely meaningful and personal way. It fulfills personal, professional, and national aspirations of space and grasping the unknown, and satiates the curiosity one has for exploring the universe.
Meaningful technology - Unlike most conventional exhibitions with physical artifacts, the proportion of original exhibits in Shanghai Astronomy Museum is as high as 85%, with more than 50% being interactive. For example, a Theory of Relativity interactive exhibit uses a grid pattern on its walls and floors which visitors can step onto and press to ‘warp’ space-time. The museum thus creates said meaning for visitors by integrating cutting-edge technology with the latest science and physics.
How long did the project take to complete?
From 2013, almost 8 years in all, including building construction.
Behind the Scenes
It's a great experience to work with teams across different fields, from architect to astronomer, from museum designers to music composers.