The Shanghai Natural History Museum located in the heart of the China’s biggest city, opened its doors around this time last year. The nature inspired museum was designed by the 40-strong Shanghai office of global architecture practice Perkins+Will . One of its most notable features would be the unique and somewhat iconic elliptical cell wall, which carries a similar the geometrical pattern and form with the cellular structure of plants and animals. An extensive green roof, planted walls, courtyards, skylights and Chinese water gardens, are some of the other features that make up this magnificently designed structure.

Here’s an extensive overview of the building design given by the architects ,

The 44,517 sqm museum offers visitors the opportunity to explore the natural world through the display of more than 10,000 artifacts from all seven continents. The building includes exhibit spaces, a 4D theater, an outdoor exhibit garden, and a 30-meter tall atrium that welcomes visitors with an abundance of natural light filtered through a striking glass wall inspired by the cellular structure of plants and animals.

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Perkins+Will was selected following an international design competition that included entries from some of the world’s best known architects. The overall shape and building organization was inspired by the nautilus shell, one of the purest geometric forms found in nature. Natural elements are depicted across the building’s façades including the central cell wall representing the cellular structure of plants and animals, the east living wall signifying earth’s vegetation, and the northern stone wall suggesting shifting tectonic plates and canyon walls eroded by rivers.

“The use of cultural references found in traditional Chinese gardens was key to the design,…..Through its integration with the site, the building represents the harmony of human and nature and is an abstraction of the basic elements of Chinese art and design.”

It is a bioclimatic building in that it responds to the sun by using an intelligent building skin that maximizes daylight and minimizes solar gain. The oval courtyard pond provides evaporative cooling, while the temperature of the building is regulated with a geothermal system that uses energy from the earth for heating and cooling. Rain water is collected from the vegetated roof and stored in the pond along with recycled grey water. All of the energy features of the museum are part of exhibits which explain the story of the museum.

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“For people who grew up in Shanghai, the old nature museum has a special place in their memories,” noted Managing Director for Perkins+Will’s Shanghai office James Lu. “Likewise, there is much excitement surrounding the opening of the new museum, which will have a similar place in the hearts of both residents and tourists alike. The museum will bring a renewed experience of natural history to this city for generations to come. We are honored to have served as the architect.”

The museum is in the Jing An District, in the center of downtown Shanghai, and within the Jing An Sculpture Park. The building replaces the original Natural History Museum and improves the museum’s ability to exhibit its collection with 20 times more exhibition space.

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