EXCLUSIVE: Ennead Architects' Thomas Wong tells CLAD about his Shanghai Planetarium plans

by Kim Megson | 08 Jan 2016

In an exclusive interview with CLAD, one of the architects behind the hotly-anticipated Shanghai Planetarium has revealed new details about the project’s futuristic design.

When it is completed in 2018, the 38,000sq m (409,000sq ft) development – a part of the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum in the city’s new Linglang district – will explore the mysteries of space, celebrate the history of Chinese astronomy and reflect the future ambitions of China’s space exploration programme.

Among other facilities, the planetarium will feature an optical planetarium, a digital sky theatre, an IMAX cinema, a solar telescope an observatory and a range of galleries.

Speaking in the latest issue of CLADmag, Thomas Wong – design partner at New York-based Ennead Architects, who are overseeing the project – explained how the distinctive design is inspired by the concept of orbital motion and the continuum of time and space.

“Each element acts as an astronomical instrument and has a specific interface with how people experience an astronomical idea,” he said. “We looked at planetaria all over the world, of all eras, and were influenced by many ancient structures including the Aztec pyramids at Teotihuacan, the Pyramids at Giza, Stonehenge and the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. They were all very inspirational in terms of the power they deliver to a culture through built form.”

The structure will feature an oculus, designed so visitors can track a circle of sunlight on the ground “like a giant sundial”, and an inverted dome which is designed so “visitors are confronted solely and entirely with the day or night sky.”

“We want the building to feel quite abstract,” said Wong. “Inside we imagine a lot of white surfaces and a stark contrast between bright illumination and darker areas so one can sense the effect of sunlight.”

Reflecting on the biggest challenges facing the project, Wong said: “China is still in the relatively early stages when it comes to construction technology and getting the best expertise and talent from the right people needed to execute this building is a huge challenge.

"The leisure market in China is growing very rapidly", he said, "The growth of museums in particular is really impressive. Ennead has a robust museum portfolio and part of our goal in going to Asia is to bring some of that expertise to the region."

Ennead are working with the Shanghai Institute of Architectural Design and Research (SIADR) in the design development stage to create “a landmark for the district and Shanghai”.

Wong promoted the project’s environmental credentials, revealing Ennead are targeting both LEED accreditation and a China 3-star rating for the planetarium.

“Sustainability and energy use have become acute issues in China because of the poor air quality from industrialisation,” he said.

“To counter this, we’re integrating a whole series of sustainable features, including a geothermal heat pump system for the planetarium.

"The project will also filter outside air and storm water to return it back to the environment cleaner than when it arrived, and we’re using healthy, low VOC materials and green roofs to reduce energy use," he added.

“The power of architecture is not only to affect what people see, but also to influence how they live and work.”

The full interview with Thomas Wong can be read in the latest edition of CLADmag, the quarterly magazine from CLAD, which has just been released and can be read on both Digital Turning Pages and as a text PDF download.

Architecture  design  Thomas Wong  Shanghai Planetarium  Shanghai 
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Ennead Architects reveals Shanghai Planetarium designs by Tom Wong

In an exclusive interview with CLAD, one of the architects behind the hotly-anticipated Shanghai Planetarium has revealed new details about the project’s futuristic design. When it is completed in 2018, the 38,000sq m (409,000sq ft) development – a part of the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum in the city’s new Linglang district – will explore the mysteries of space, celebrate the history of Chinese astronomy and reflect the future ambitions
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The development – part of the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum – will explore the mysteries of space / Ennead Architects
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