A flexible education and entertainment space, the Gaochun County Aquaculture Museum and Environmental Center was commissioned by local officials to be an iconic tourist attraction that celebrates the centuries-old crab farming industry of the Gucheng Lake Region in China while demonstrating environmental stewardship.
Building upon the master plan for the surrounding five square kilometer environmental education park designed by Overland and Arup, the center will be the hub for educational activities. For over ten thousand years, the people of Gaochun County, China—located 80 km to the south of Nanjing city—have cultivated crab, fish, and lotus to provide not only for their immediate area but beyond, earning the reputation as the consummate producers of organic food in the country. The crab in particular are one of the most prized food sources in Asia, and along with their cultivation over millennia have come culturally rich traditions, ceremonies, rituals, and celebrations that are known throughout China. The center will celebrate the historic and economic significance that the famous Guncheng Lake crab has had over the centuries and will inspire and educate visitors about the preservation of natural resources, the agricultural history of the land, and the culture of Gaochun County.
The design team explored farming practices, harvesting, natural resources, and all of the environmental issues associated with crab farming, including the control of pollution and protection of wildlife. Architectural details in the building design allude to the life of the crab as well forms and materials that reference the industry, such as bamboo and netting.
The center “floats” in the water landscape inspired by the traditional nets used to raise and harvest the crabs. To address the need for a highly flexible program, Overland designed a welcoming open lobby with a central information desk and several areas for multimedia presentations, a number of permanent and temporary exhibitions spaces, and a 4D theater. The galleries within will provide a range of educational and hands-on experiences for families visiting the park.
To lend a sense of grandeur to the exterior of the structure, thereby giving it the unique iconic identity desired by the client, the team enveloped it within a giant sculptural netting that visually increases its scale, connects it to the surrounding garden, plaza, and river, and provides shading for outdoor classrooms. During the region’s annual Crab Festival the building will serve as the centerpiece and backdrop for activities on the main lawn.
Designed to meet Chinese green building standards, the center will incorporate sustainable features such as geothermal heating and cooling using the lake water.