Though it sits within Shanghai's Jing An Sculpture Park, the building is designed to be more than inhabited art. It recycles rainwater through its green roof and minimizes solar gain using an intelligent building skin, while its oval courtyard pond helps cool the building. Geothermal energy regulates the building's temperature.The museum's collection comprises some 290,000 samples, including a complete, 140-million-year-old skeleton of the dinosaur Mamenchisaurus, and species which cannot be found outside China, such as Yellow River mammoth, giant salamander, giant panda, and Yangtze Alligator. Situated in Shanghai's Cotton Exchange Building since 1956, the natural history museum leaves its historic home for a building with 20 times the exhibition space and a design that looks forward, as well as back through the eons.
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This weekend a Shanghai museum got a new home, and its design takes a major cue from nature. The Shanghai Natural History Museum wraps 479,180 square feet of exhibition space with facades inspired by the elements, natural phenomena, and the biological structure of cells. Perkins + Will designed the structure, which expresses architectural themes found in nature. A green roof rises from the site plan, spiraling logarithmically like the shell of a nautilus. A 100-foot-tall atrium rises within that organizing geometry, transmitting natural light through a craggy lattice that mimics the shape and organization of living cells. Nature inspired the design of the building's other facades, too. Its eastern face is a living wall, complementing a north-facing facade of stone that the architects said suggests shifting tectonic plates and canyon walls eroded by rivers. The interaction of natural elements is also meant to invoke traditional Chinese landscape architecture. “The use of cultural references found in traditional Chinese gardens was key to the design,” Ralph Johnson, principal at Perkins + Will, said in a press release. “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.”
Chicago's natural history museum, the Field Museum, announced Monday it has earned a Gold rating from the U.S. Green Building Council under the LEED for Existing Buildings Operations and Maintenance (EB O+M) program, becoming just the second museum in the nation to do so. (The Madison Children's Museum is the other.) Two of the museum's halls already achieved LEED certification separately, including its Conservation Hall, which is LEED Gold. But Monday's announcement marks a building-wide rating seldom seen for such building types—the hulking museum, made of limestone and Georgian marble, comprises nearly half a million square feet. Its 3D Theater is also certified under LEED for Interior Design & Construction. Greening a museum that dates back to the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition was no simple task. (The current building opened in 1921, originally planned by Daniel Burnham and designed by his associate William Peirce Anderson.) In many places its neoclassical stone walls don't have an air gap with the interior brick and plaster, making it difficult to regulate the building's temperature. And, as was made clear when the museum applied for LEED certification, it doesn't function on a typical building's schedule. “A normal building might shut down at 5 [o'clock], but not for us,” said Ernst Pierre-Toussaint, the museum's director of facilities, planning and operations. More than 99 percent of the museum's collection is in storage, which has to be climate controlled and monitored constantly. Pierre-Toussaint said improving energy efficiency has been a goal for at least 15 years. Working with the Delta Institute—an environmental consultant that worked with the Field Museum on the project—Field Museum staff replaced about 30 percent of the building's 6,700 incandescent bulbs with LEDs, and installed 100 kilowatts of rooftop photovoltaic panels. Pierre-Toussaint said they hope to install up to 220 kW more—enough to offset 10 to 15 percent of the building's peak electricity demand —by 2025. The museum accounts for all of its natural gas consumption by purchasing renewable energy credits and carbon offsets. Much of the certification work came down to mechanical system logistics. The museum has 11 separate electric meters, and 13 for water use. Since some collections and accessible areas need to be heated—even during summer—while others are cooled, the museum installed demand-control ventilation to regulate air in sensitive exhibits individually. “We made huge strides over the past two years and are proud to share the results with our visitors,” said Richard Lariviere, the museum's president, in a press release. “One of the big challenges is planning long-term,” said the Delta Institute's Kevin Dick. “You can certainly make quick fixes. But you know an institution like this isn't going anywhere. So in 40 years what will this look like?”