12 November 2019

Tianjin Binhai Exploratorium

Bernard Tschumi is famous throughout the world for his personal take on architecture. He believes that designs are born of the complex dynamics established between people and between people and the spaces they use. The experience of a space is dictated by the movement that the architecture itself is destined to contain, direct and organise. The user moves and perceives the movement of the space as a continuous shifting of interacting dynamic spatial relations. This concept would appear to have fuelled the practice’s latest architectural achievement, which has already become a landmark in the area in which it is situated.

Tianjin Binhai Exploratorium is a massive new museum that will be joining MVRDV's futuristic library (The Eye) as one of five main attractions in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin's growing recreational diistrict. The 33,000-square-meter museum structure opened 1st October. The Exploratorium showcases artefacts from Tianjin’s industrial past through large-scale contemporary technology, including spectacular rockets for space research, and through the use of cutting-edge, interactive technology such as VR. The project is part of the city’s Binhai Cultural Center and contains facilities for cultural events and exhibitions as well as galleries, offices, and restaurant and retail spaces.

Bernard Tschumi Architects designed the Exploratorium to relate to the rich industrial history of the area, the site of high-volume manufacturing and research. A series of large-scale cones creates major rooms throughout the museum. The central cone, lit from above, connects all three levels of the Exploratorium. A spiralling ramp ascends to the top level, offering an unusual spatial experience of the modern vertical city by reinterpreting an ancient industrial typology. The roof is accessible to visitors and acts as a promenade with striking views over the surrounding city.

“The Exploratorium is designed as a building for the past, the present, and the future of Tianjin,” says Bernard Tschumi.

The focal point of the exhibition complex is the grand lobby or cone that provides access to all public parts of the program. This immense cone — almost double the height of the Guggenheim Museum —connects to all surrounding spaces and allows visitors to spiral through the large exhibition halls stacked on each end of the building, past view portholes and lightwells that give each hall an individual character and configuration. Grand, triple-height spaces define the main circulation, while a constellation of lights and circular lightwells give the space an other-worldly feel. The perforated aluminium facade gives a unified presence to the building, despite its large size and the disparate elements of the program.

The cones provide even, natural light to gallery spaces and reduce the energy loads required for artificial lighting. Their tapered forms also concentrate warm air, which can then be channelled out of the building in summer or back into the galleries in winter. Glazing surfaces are minimized except when desired for a program. The perforated metal panels of the facade help reduce heat gain. The central, large atrium acts as a solar chimney, drawing up hot air and replacing it with cool air from below in a constant airstream.


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