A new Shanghai museum is grabbing attention. As the Shanghai Natural History Museum reopens, the new home for the venerable collection may be as much an attraction of architecture as it is for the artifacts themselves.
The Shanghai Natural History Museum is the work of Perkins+Will’s Global Design, whose work is seen all over the world, including such icons as the San Francisco Ferry Building restoration.
The original Shanghai museum was established in 1956 in the former Shanghai Cotton Exchange Building in the Huangpu District of Shanghai. The new 479,180 square foot museum location in the Huangpu District of Shanghai offers visitors the opportunity to explore the natural world through the display of more than 10,000 artifacts from all seven continents. The new Shanghai museum 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.
The overall shape and building organization of this Shanghai museum was inspired by the nautilus shell, one of the purest geometric forms found in nature. Natural elements are depicted across the building’s facades 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,” says Design Director Ralph Johnson. “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.”
The 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.
The new Shanghai 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.
The museum is possibly China’s largest for natural sciences, showing the history of ancient animals, human history, and the evolution of animals and plants, with specimens of animals and plants, mummies, fossils, models, unearthed historical relics, and ancient literature.
Of 180 exhibitions of ancient animals, Mamenchisaurus, one of the largest dinosaurs in the world, and the ancient elephant of the Yellow River are the most outstanding in the collection. Five mummies, including a 4,000-years-old specimen unearthed in Loulan, are exhibited to show the history of human development.
Shanghai Museum Fast Facts
Admission to the Shanghai Natural History Museum is free. Adventurous travelers will find it near the West Nanjing Road’ Station on the subway line. Hours are 9 am to 5 pm, closed Mondays.
Shanghai is already home to some of China’s most revered museums, including the Shanghai Museum with some 120,000 precious historical relics, and the Shanghai Art Palace, housing more than 80,000 exhibits, mainly themed around Chinese modern art.
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