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Binhai Science Museum, a series of large-scale cones to celebrate the past

Bernard Tschumi Architects

Culture  /  Completed
Bernard Tschumi Architects

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, including spectacular rockets for space research. The project 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, offering an unusual spatial experience of the modern city by reinterpreting an industrial typology. For the main ramp, the metal cladding involved precise geometric studies to realize its warped surfaces. 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 central atrium acts as a solar chimney, drawing up hot air and replacing it with cool air from below in a constant airstream. 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. There are approximately 3,600 panels in total and about 140 different sizes. 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. Functionally, the perforated paneling helps reduce heat gain and acts as a rain screen. Overall, the formal and material elements reinforce the design concept related to the site’s industrial past while providing an identity for the present and future.


 Tianjin Binhai Municipality
 33000 mq
 Bernard Tschumi Architects
 Lead Designer: Bernard Tschumi. Key personnel: Joel Rutten, Nianlai Zhong, Christopher Lee, Pierre-Yves Kuhn, Jerome Haferd, Bart-Jan Polman, Dora Felekou, Pedro Camara, Shayi Liang, Nate Oppenheim, Kate Scott, Clinton Peterson, Olga Jitariouk, Sung Yu. Local Architects and Engineers: Tianjin Urban Planning and Design Institute (TUPDI)
 Inhabit (Facade)
 Kris Provoost, Changheng Zhan


Dedicated to the interface between 21st-century culture and architecture, Bernard Tschumi Architects is an international architectural and urban design firm with over $1 billion worth of projects for institutional, private, and civic clients. The firm has been the recipient of numerous national and international honors, and has established a reputation for its innovative design solutions to different programs, sites, sizes, and scales, from small facilities to large-scale master plans. Major built projects include the Parc de la Villette in Paris, the Acropolis Museum in Athens, the Paris Zoo, and a variety of concert halls and university projects. A large educational complex for the University of Paris-Sud is nearing completion and will open in 2022.

First known as a theorist, Bernard Tschumi published The Manhattan Transcripts and Architecture and Disjunction. He was the Dean of Columbia University's GSAPP in New York from 1988-2003 where he continues to teach.


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