The world’s largest astronomy museum is opening in Shanghai, and its complex curvilinear shape has been designed to reflect the geometry of the cosmos. With no straight lines or right angles used throughout, the structure is instead formed from three overlapping arcs that allude to the orbits of celestial bodies.
Opening Friday, the 420,000-square-foot Shanghai Astronomy Museum — a branch of the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum — will house exhibitions, a planetarium, an observatory and a 78-foot-tall solar telescope. It was conceived by US firm Ennead Architects, which in 2014 won an international competition to design the building.
The Shanghai Astronomy Museum was intentionally designed without straight lines or right angles. Credit: Courtesy Ennead Architects
“We really thought that we could leverage the architecture to bring incredible impact to this whole experience,” said lead designer and partner Thomas J. Wong in a video interview. “The building is meant to be this embodiment of … astronomically inspired architecture.”
By foregoing straight walls in favor of arcing lines, Wong and his team hoped to show that everything in the universe is in constant motion and governed by an array of forces.
According to Wong, they were also influenced by the “three-body problem,” the as-yet-unsolved question of how to mathematically calculate the motion of three celestial entities — like planets, moons or stars — based on their gravitational relationships to one another. While this calculation can be carried out with two celestial bodies, the pathways become chaotic and unpredictable with three.
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