Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects has won an international contest for the Chengdu Natural History Museum in China, seeing off competition from firms such as Zaha Hadid Architects and FUKSAS. With a form inspired by the geological impact of shifting tectonic plates, and reflecting pools inspired by ancient irrigation systems, the scheme makes heavy reference to the surrounding natural landscape, while dominant features such as a tall central atrium form a visual connection with the built environment. Below, the architects offer their own description of the winning scheme.
Text description provided by the architects. World-renowned architecture firm Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, in collaboration with China Southwest Architectural Design and Research Institute Corp. Ltd. (CSWADI), has won an international design competition for the Chengdu Natural History Museum in Chengdu, China. Other competitors in the competition included Zaha Hadid Architects, Sutherland Hussey Harris, Nihon Sekkei, Valode & Pistre, and FUKSAS.
The site is located in the eastern part of the historical and culturally rich city of Chengdu, China. The 62,700-square-meter / 674,897-square-foot museum will include innovative exhibition and educational spaces, permanent, temporary and interactive exhibits, a gift shop, a café, cinemas, and outdoor spaces. The building will be an important cultural landmark for the city of Chengdu, which is in the midst of an economic boom as a new high-tech and entrepreneurial hub.
Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects’ winning design was inspired by the natural geological forms found in the Sichuan Basin. Over time, volcanic activity and shifting tectonic plate movements created horizontal and vertical forces, causing the uplift of the plateau. These forces created forms that are unique to the natural environment of Chengdu. The ancient Shu water irrigation system is the inspiration into the outdoor space as reflecting pools and tributaries that frame the museum.
The central atrium is a tall and generous space filled with natural light. It visually connects the city, street and the main entrance to the museum landscape and the adjacent water irrigation system. The atrium will be the vibrant heart of the building, crossed by sky bridges and connecting to exhibits and public amenity spaces.
One member of the Expert Jury Panel remarked, “The greatest feature of this design is that it managed to maintain a vertical visual impression of the building while the human-scale experience of it is in a horizontal way. The scheme integrates architecture, landscape and the surrounding environment well.”
“Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects is honored to have won this international competition,” said Senior Design Principal Fred Clarke, FAIA, RIBA, JIA. Associate Principal Kristin Hawkins, AIA, added, “ We look forward to a strong partnership with our client and CSWADI toward creating a building that embodies the uniqueness of the city of Chengdu and the mission of this important cultural institution within the community.”