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  6. 2015
  7. Shanghai Natural History Museum / Perkins+Will

Shanghai Natural History Museum / Perkins+Will

  • 23:00 - 23 April, 2015
Shanghai Natural History Museum / Perkins+Will
Shanghai Natural History Museum / Perkins+Will, © James and Connor Steinkamp
© James and Connor Steinkamp

© James and Connor Steinkamp © James and Connor Steinkamp © James and Connor Steinkamp © James and Connor Steinkamp +22

© James and Connor Steinkamp
© James and Connor Steinkamp

From the architect. The much anticipated Shanghai Natural History Museum, designed by Perkins+Will’s Global Design Director Ralph Johnson, has opened in Shanghai. The 44,517 square meter (479,180 square foot) museum offers visitors the opportunity to explore the natural world through the display of more than 10,000 artifacts from all seven continents. The building 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.

© James and Connor Steinkamp
© James and Connor Steinkamp

Perkins+Will was selected following an international design competition that included entries from some of the world’s best known architects. The overall shape and building organization was inspired by the nautilus shell, one of the purest geometric forms found in nature. Natural elements are depicted across the building’s façades 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.

Oval Pool
Oval Pool

“The use of cultural references found in traditional Chinese gardens was key to the design,” said 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.”

© James and Connor Steinkamp
© James and Connor Steinkamp

It is a 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. All of the energy features of the museum are part of exhibits which explain the story of the museum.

© James and Connor Steinkamp
© James and Connor Steinkamp

“For people who grew up in Shanghai, the old nature museum has a special place in their memories,” noted Managing Director for Perkins+Will’s Shanghai office James Lu. “Likewise, there is much excitement surrounding the opening of the new museum, which will have a similar place in the hearts of both residents and tourists alike. The museum will bring a renewed experience of natural history to this city for generations to come. We are honored to have served as the architect.” For more than three decades, Perkins+Will has designed dynamic projects across China. The firm’s 40-person office in Shanghai services a wide range of clients, and operates within all of Perkins+Will’s practice areas.

Level 1 Plan
Level 1 Plan

The 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.

© James and Connor Steinkamp
© James and Connor Steinkamp

Ranked number two among Architectural Record’s top museum design firms, Perkins+Will’s portfolio includes projects for some of the world’s most respected cultural institutions. Perkins+Will is the architect for the interior for the Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth, England and past work includes the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York, New York; August Wilson Center for African American Culture in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago, Illinois; A Casa Museum in São Paulo, Brazil; and Presidio Officers' Club Museum in San Francisco, California. Additionally, Phil Freelon (now with Perkins+Will) leads the design team for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, currently in construction on the National Mall in Washington, DC. Freelon was also the design architect for the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, Georgia. For more information on the firm’s museum projects visit -

© James and Connor Steinkamp
© James and Connor Steinkamp
Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address. Cite: "Shanghai Natural History Museum / Perkins+Will" 23 Apr 2015. ArchDaily. Accessed . <>
Read comments


Grista Pearl · July 18, 2016

Great Interior Designing for Coming Visitors at this place. I 've seen more design at and more websites for make a perfect house and health care design.

BG · May 27, 2016

Varanoi may be a copout but they rock it. Totally unique from what I know to be P&W. pretty amazing building

Wei Chao Tee · January 03, 2016

First picture is amazing

Daniel Christev · May 09, 2015

All I see is voronoi...

Matt U. · April 29, 2015

this project is replete with the tropes that are plaguing architecture:

green roof ramp? check
parametric sun shade? check
faux historic/natural monstrosity? check
nautilus inspired curve? check
arbitrary green wall? check
gratuitous atrium? check
jargon to justify a surface-level incorporation of local design customs and history? check

all it needs is a tower on top

Josh Wang · April 29, 2015 04:55 AM

Couldn't agree any more, now Shanghai
just got one more giant metal monster.

Archer David · April 29, 2015 04:10 AM

Yeah, the tower will definitely make this project even better. P+W has been stepping up their game lately, and producing some good quality work. Good for them :)

Oscar Ortega · April 29, 2015 01:46 AM

Nailed it!!

Tugba Okcuoglu · April 28, 2015

seems like a piece of bad taste, waste of time and money:/

Muslum · April 25, 2015

from my point of view, this project comes from the category of "fake sustainobility" and "serious traditional interpretation". This kind of illumination is, at least non-apptopriate for the exhibits. and I haven`t seen any normal images from the exhibition space!

Guest · April 27, 2015 07:57 AM
IEEE History Center · April 24, 2015

Spectacular, and looking forward to visiting! Here's hoping that someone documented photographically the old museum as an artifact of natural science museology before it was emptied and torn down.

Jake Groth · April 24, 2015

P+W has really been stepping it up in design. The cavernous space is really well done. It has some nice light quality on the interior.

Archer David · April 29, 2015 04:12 AM

I agree! I wish you can elaborate more, but vague praises are fine too. P+W has been releasing some quality projects lately.

Manuel Rodríguez · April 24, 2015 06:13 AM

I love the way they put a "traditional" Chinese landscape inside that patio. It is pretty amazing.

Croco Dile · April 24, 2015 06:06 AM

A really good design idea.
The interiors I like the most.
Wonderful !

Manuel Rodríguez · April 24, 2015

The address is not correct. If someone wants to visit it the address is 北京西路 - 石门二路 (就在那个路口那边) Beijingxi Road, Shimener Road (it is just in that corner) I live nearby this building :)

(And guys, when you write Huangpu Qu, that Qu 区 stand for district. The translation in English is district. It is not the first time that I see it on the website)

Lelong · April 24, 2015 03:55 AM

Manuel, what do you look for if even the Chinese don't know how to name their stuff. I would translate 'YuYuan' with 'Jade Garden' and not with 'YuYuan Garden'. Have a look on all SH Metro Maps and City Maps ;-)

Interesting also that they write the entire address in Latin letters, beside the city name. Would be interesting to see how Archdaily would translate 上海市. Hint for all not in Shanghai/China living ppl, the City is not called 'Shanghai Shi' ;-)

But you are right, from a journalist point they, and not only Archdaily, should do a better research job. Thought I believe they just copy the text from Perkins + Will and P+W could know it better since they are in SH.

Thanks for the address update, I will have a look on it.


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© James and Connor Steinkamp

上海自然历史博物馆 / Perkins+Will