How can a contemporary science museum look forward while simultaneously celebrating the past?
The Binhai Science Museum is a 33,000-square-meter (355,200-square-foot) building intended to showcase artifacts from Tianjin’s industrial past and large-scale contemporary technology. It is part of Tianjin’s Binhai Cultural Center and contains facilities for events, exhibitions, offices, dining, and retail.
The building’s volumes and materiality relate to the rich industrial history of the area. A series of large-scale cones generates major rooms throughout the museum. A spiraling ramp ascends the central cone to the top level. For the main ramp, the metal cladding involved precise geometric studies to realize its warped surfaces.
The copper-colored exterior gives a unified presence to the building, despite its large size and disparate programs. Made of anodized aluminum, the envelope’s panels (aprx. 1.40x3.50m) are installed with a 30mm-wide joint—a small tolerance successfully achieved by the contractor. There are approximately 3,600 panels in total and about 140 different sizes, factoring in custom cuts, notably where flat surfaces intersect with round window apertures and conical surfaces. The curvature of panels was cold formed on site. The perforation pattern is based on a 20x20cm grid with groups of holes in three different diameters. The panels come in three colors to produce a vertical gradient. The randomization of both the perforation and the gradient result from a computer script and manual adjustment.
The large size of the panels required a reinforced backing made of two U channels placed between the grid of holes, bolted to a steel tube substructure anchored from slab to slab. Functionally, the perforated paneling helps reduce heat gain and acts as a rain screen.
Overall, the metallic elements reinforce the design concept related to the site’s industrial past while providing an identity for the present and future.