When trying to simulate the Universe through architecture, the first step is to completely renounce straight lines and sharp angles. Nothing but arcs, spheres and domes are shaping the newest Astronomy Museum in the world.
Inspired by the wisdom of ancient Chinese astronomy, this Shanghai-based museum is also the largest of its kind in the world. Unfolding over 420,000 square feet, the magnificent overlapping arcs of the building reveal the mysteries of the Universe, much like the long-forgotten oracle temples.
First, you are welcomed by the Oculus, which acts as a functioning astronomical instrument, measuring the passage of time. Suspended over the main entry, it tracks a circle of sunlight on the floor. As the day passes, the circle of light moves across the floor and the reflecting pool, as a beautiful way of indicating the time and season.
Then, you are mesmerized by the giant Sphere, which has such minimal visible support that it actually looks like it’s floating. Half of it emerges through the roof, giving the illusion of a rising planet, while the other half seems to defy gravity inside the museum. This is where the planetarium theater is located.
Lastly, the inverted Dome takes you as close as possible to the open sky. Placed on top of the central atrium of the building, it looks like a surreal glass dish where visitors can get an unobstructed and unforgettable view of the sky.
This dream-like experience is what visitors can expect at the Shanghai Astronomy Museum, which will be officially opened this week. Developed by U.S. architecture firm Ennead, it integrates a planetarium, an observatory, a 78-foot solar telescope, plus an Education and Research Center. As the astronomical branch of the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum, this architectural marvel will take its visitors on a different kind of space exploration.