Chengdu Museum of Natural History
Pelli Clarke & Partners
Chengdu is located on the western side of the Sichuan Basin, a vast plain bordered by mountains, home to rich farmland and vibrant urban centers. The area’s bordering mountain ranges are the result of ancient volcanic activity and shifting tectonic plates — an evolutionary process that inspired the museum’s design. The museum’s dramatic forms embody the process of rock breaking apart due to opposing forces of volcanic activity and shifting tectonic plates. The building’s form sweeps up in places to reveal the interior before descending again, reflecting the tension between ascension and gravity. The exterior granite surface is punctuated with organic perforations that create the impression of daylight reflecting on mountain snow. At night, light from within evokes a starry sky. An expansive canopy marks the main entrance, welcoming visitors into the museum. Inside the central atrium, sculpted wooden bridges recall the historic connection between Chengdu and its ancient water passages. Outside the museum, an immersive nature experience awaits with indigenous plants, topography, and waterways. Reflecting pools and tributaries will frame the museum, highlighting the region’s historic irrigation systems.