Yantai is home to the first female astronomer in China. The local government wants to have a museum dedicated to education on the science and mystery of the space, for the aspiring next generation. Yet the budget is too limited for a full-scale space museum. So we proposed the idea of a digital experience and education center which was luckily supported unanimously by the client body. The design drew inspiration from pluralistic sources, to name a few: space crystals, zircon, the enigmatic black extraterrestrial object in Space Odyssey, and spacecraft for cosmic exploration. We wanted to create for the public the surprised encounter of an unfamiliar crystalline object, at the clearing of the woods in a seaside park, something unexpected that arouses the interest to explore beyond.
The building is situated at the heart of a seaside park. To create a bit of drama, we had the landscape architect carve out an oval-shaped clearing in the woods of dense tall trees. Through the gaps among trees, people in the park catch glimpses of an unusual black object perched on a grassy spot, with a mystical sheen when observed from different angles (photovoltaic glass). Interest-aroused, people emerge out of the woods and find themselves suddenly in a large oval clearing, and a black crystalline object with its long axis pointing to the ocean and the sky calls them forward to explore. There is a tiny one-room shrine nearby once used by the local fisherman for their protective god. We have kept it and carefully protected it with trees. It may be a stop on the way to the Space Crystals.
The building's seemingly monolithic façade is actually comprised of photovoltaic glass and back-painted glass panels, both dark-grey colored. The photovoltaic solar power glass on the facade facing the sun on the south side uses thin-film power generation technology, the area of which accounts for about 50% of the total area of the curtain wall. Calculation shows that the façade’s power generation capacity can meet the general lighting needs of the whole building under sunny conditions. Special channels at the joints of the curtain wall glass panels are designed to channel rainwater to a captive basin, and the collected rainwater will be used for the irrigation of plants.
The unusual black crystalline form of the building is meant to arouse interest and take people on an exciting journey to discover the science and mystery of the universe. This is particularly important for our younger generation, to understand where we as humans are situated in the vast universe. The building is positioned at the center of an oval clearing in a woody park. With the long axis of the irregular crystalline form tilting toward the sky, the building seems ready to leap from Earth to Space. The grassy ground is gently slopped upwards to make the building even more uplifting. The main entrance is located on the southern side, where the building cantilevers out the most. Upon entering, eyes will be drawn upward by a 20-meter-high polyhedral atrium, bathed in natural light gently cascading down from above. A spiral ramp winds upward, encased between polygonal shells on both sides, connecting various exhibition spaces. The top of the spiral leads to an outdoor terrace with an amazing view of the ocean. A bright-colored staircase provides a vertical shortcut for people who want to skip the sequences of the exhibitions. The interior is designed with a space-age vibe. Exhibition spaces are equipped with cutting-edge technologies including augmented, virtual, and mixed reality for a fully immersive experience in the wonders of the universe. We hope that through the combination of art, science, and technology, a new generation of public education experience will be created.
A unique piece of architecture that will be very exciting for the general public. Education should be fun, especially when it is about the universe. We are excited that this mysterious-looking building will provide that fun experience.
OPEN is an architecture office collaborating across different disciplines to practice urban design, landscape design, architectural design, and interior design, as well as the research and production of design strategies in the context of new challenges. We believe in the innovative power of architecture to transform people and the way they live, while striking a new balance between manmade and nature. OPEN was founded by LI Hu and HUANG Wenjing in New York City, and established the Beijing office in 2008.