As the first large-scale comprehensive natural museum in Southern China, the Shenzhen Natural History Museum is set to be one of Shenzhen’s “Ten Cultural Facilities in the New Era”. It has generated extensive international attention since the request for proposals.
Located adjacent to the picturesque Yanzi Lake in the Pingshan District of Shenzhen, the new 100,000 sqm facility will become a world-class natural history museum dedicated to interpreting the laws of ecological evolution, showing the geographies of Shenzhen and its ecology from a global perspective, and actively advocating science.
Pingshan, situated in north-eastern Shenzhen, boasts rich natural and ecological resources. Being positioned as Pingshan’s new and dynamic hub, the Yanzi Lake area enjoys a productive aquatic ecosystem with typical Lingnan characteristics, spanning mountains, forests, farmlands, and wetlands, which makes it a perfect location for building a world-class natural history museum.
岭南自然风光旖旎，山峦起伏，河网纵横，“水”在岭南文化中扮演着举足轻重的角色。以此为灵感，同时受到本地“山林—河湖—植被”绿色生态轴线的启发，B+H、3XN和筑博联合体的中标方案将 “河流” 作为主线， 为深圳自然博物馆打造了以 “三角洲” 为名的建筑和景观设计概念，在燕子岭和燕子湖之间开辟出一处生态融合空间，形成一个生机勃勃的新 “三角洲” ，以此反映该区域丰富活跃的生态及人文场景。方案精准捕捉到了场域的河滨生态氛围，将水所蕴含的永恒概念优雅地嵌入项目的愿景定位、空间规划、功能结构与材料设计中。
Lingnan is renowned for its picturesque scenery of gently undulating mountains and hills set amongst calm braided rivers and tranquil streams. This water, which has shaped the environment over millennia, also contains profound meanings in Lingnan culture. Inspired by this and the local river-mountain-green axis, the winning design scheme of Shenzhen Natural History Museum developed by B+H Architects – 3XN – Zhubo consortium is entitled “Delta”. It aims to create an overlap between Yanzi Hill and Yanzi Lake to form a robust new River Delta that reflects the dynamism and richness of the surrounding ecosystem. By capturing the distinct atmosphere of a riverfront site and discovering the timeless property of water as a concept, the design integrates the function, vision, structure, material, and space in an explicit and graceful manner.
Surrounded by verdant mountains and tranquil rivers, the site enjoys an open setting, with spectacular scenic views. The natural background reveals the beauty of interwoven layers of traditional Chinese landscapes. Like a nature-made Chinese scroll that unfolds to reveal the beauty of nature, the Natural History Museum emerges in its magnificent and dynamic form, blending into the context sensitively and harmoniously.
河流讲述故事 RIVERS TELL STORIES
Rivers, like landscapes, are never static and reflect a continuous process of evolution and growth. Rivers tell stories. They reveal our past, present, shine a light on our future and, through their continuous movement, shape our world and reflect our shared natural history. Taking inspiration from this, the landscape design seeks to reveal, in a vibrant, accessible, and meaningful way, the rich natural history of the region and our place within it.
就像坪山河的潮涨潮落冲刷着河岸边界，景观设计有意模糊了人为与自然生态系统之间的界限，使两者相互交织 —— 建筑的终点和景观的起点趋于融合。建筑和景观和谐配合的原则贯穿设计始终，方案致力于创造一个真实反映燕子湖地区美丽丰富生态的环境。
Much like the ebb and flow of the Pingshan River, the lines between man-made and natural eco-systems are intentionally blurred and intertwined within the landscape design. It is hard to define exactly where the building ends and the landscape begins. This approach underpins a powerful belief that to create a setting that truly reflects the beauty and ecological richness of the Yanzi Lake area, the building and landscape must work in harmony.
The design of the landscape seeks to both protect and reveal the natural beauty and critical function of the diverse and interconnected eco-systems found around the site. To this end, the landscape does not simply end at the property line but flows in and out, bringing the revitalized eco-systems into the building and extending the learning spaces and exhibits out into the surrounding public open spaces. This approach underpins a dramatic and interactive public realm that includes a botanical green roof, terraced wetland islands and a sinuous riverfront park system.
In response to the ecological and urban context as well as the needs of the end users, the landscape is designed to function at three different levels, all of which co-exist and shape each other. It is, first and foremost, a system-based landscape – informed by the Yanzi Lake ecosystem and intended as a catalyst and integral connective element which links the city with the natural world. Secondly, while expansive, the landscape is designed at a human scale. It distills complex ecological processes into user experiences which can be seen, touched, and experienced by children and families. And finally, it is dynamic by nature – a living flowing element which shifts and reveals as it guides visitors through the space.
Inspired by the River Delta concept, the arrival landscape reflects the different movements of water within rivers which so powerfully shape our natural environment. The laminar and helical flows within rivers combine to sculpt a landscape that guides visitors into the museum while also creating a sculptural gateway experience.
The waterbody along the north edge of the site functions as a cohesive element that connects the landscape to the Museum and also the park and river to the north. The three pools or ‘‘eddies’’ within the waterbody offer opportunities for the public to physically and visually experience and interact with the river concept.
A dramatic pathway leads visitors through the river and into the Museum via a gently sloping trail along which visitors can interact with and learn about the unique local ecology through a series of evolving water-based exhibition zones which provide a surprising and unexpected extension of the Museum’s interior exhibitions spaces.
The integration interior and exterior spaces was developed not only as a strategy for creating a more inclusive and healthier environment but also as a strategy to connect visitors with living natural spaces and further enhance the ability of the Museum to showcase and create dynamic educational environments. The sunken plaza creates a meeting point between the interior Plant World exhibition space and the Pingshan River landscape ecosystem. This hybrid exhibition and ecosystem destination dramatically increases the reach of the Museum and the ability for visitors to see the natural world in a living form.
As an iconic destination, the Museum’s rooftop park is intended to be accessible and enjoyable by all. The design is structured around a sinuous green spine which provides a generous pathway along which people can move comfortably and safely as they experience the park. The roof of the Museum creates a natural journey, both in terms of the form but also through the subtle incline or decline that visitors experience when walking across its length. This journey from a low to a high point reflects the arc of civilization and allows the landscape to create a series of thematic zones which bring to life the evolutionary timeline of planet earth.
Beginning at either the Plants World zone, which highlights natural elements from the Cambrian explosion, or at the future-facing Cosmic Garden, visitors will make their way through a series of thematic zones that each showcase a unique stage of life upon earth. The timeline narrative, along with strong connections to the Museum interior, ensure that the space goes beyond a simple park and becomes a genuine learning space that fosters wonder and amazement at the natural world. While each of the rooftop thematic zones showcases as different stage of life on earth, they share a common goal of creating attractive teaching spaces which playfully reveal the wonders of life on earth in an accessible way. While traditional museums and displays are elements to be viewed from a distance, the landscape took a new and innovative approach by creating a diverse range of amenities that are intended to be touched, climbed on, and interacted with in a variety of ways that foster discovery.
In addition to providing space for people to explore and learn, the rooftop park presented a unique opportunity to provide valuable natural habitat within a unique setting. As an integrated part of the larger Yanzi Lake ecosystem, the design seeks to both maximise the available planted area and ensure that plant species used highlight and restore the native species which make this region so vibrant.
Furthermore, given the diverse range of migrating birds that visit the site, the design prioritized plant species that would provide a suitable habitat for them to stay and breed. In order to create a natural ecology of the site, native flowering and aquatic plants are added into the site to attract diverse wildlife and maintain a healthy water cycle. Together, these systems also help to further integrate the constructed museum and surrounding natural ecosystems.
Lingnan’s humid subtropical climate provides many benefits, but also poses challenges for visitor comfort and safety. Summer temperatures are hot and humid, while seasonal monsoons bring heavy rain and high winds. The landscape design responds to these factors carefully and, by tailoring the location, density and type of planting used, creates large shaded zones which, while allowing for cross wind flow, protects visitors from the sun. Furthermore, water features, a key component of the design, also produce cooling effects while paving materials with high solar reflectivity were prioritized to avoid contributing to the urban heat island effect.
The adjacent riverfront park represents an integral part of the overall Museum vision. It reflects the form and concept narrative of the Natural History Museum and facilitates the connections to the Museum rooftop park, creating a sustainable landscape that highlights the natural systems, flows and functions of the Pingshan River.
To this end, the design actively sought to remove or mitigate any perceived or real boundaries between the museum and the surrounding parkland. The Delta concept and the shifting pathways of the Pingshan River were applied to this goal and enabled a more integrated and cohesive landscape design solution which further enhances the mission and goals of the Museum.
By providing a natural extension of the indoor teaching and exhibition spaces, the surrounding landscape reflects the four natural characters found on site, including forest, rivers, mountains, and farmlands. These diverse amenity spaces provide an evolving series of learning environments that are interactive and accessible to all through a curated exploration route that reflects the Museum’s core themes and ensures an interconnected and learning focused ecosystem.
The Museum landscape will reveal the natural history and ecological heritage of the region. Furthermore, it is also intended as a place that will prompt visitors to think about their place within the natural world and how they might contribute to a more balanced and resilient future for all who call the planet home. In this way, the landscape concept transcends the building and the immediate site to encompass the surrounding natural ecosystem and city.
Taking sponge city as an example, the landscape creates a sustainable and resilient design framework which employs four interconnected zones that work collectively to collect and reuse rainwater, mitigate the effects of flooding, reduce reliance on traditional infrastructure and replenish groundwater aquifers.
At a macro level, this sensitive approach is seen as a natural extension of the park and river to the north where an expanded series of natural wetlands, detention ponds and a restored riparian edge further elevates the vision of a Museum that is fully integrated with the surrounding environment.
As a place of learning and discovery, the Museum has a responsibility to play an active role in connecting with both visitors and the surrounding community in a meaningful way. By carefully balancing the needs of all community members and participants, the design enables the Museum to act as a driver of future growth, tourism, culture, and education. In addition, by connecting with surrounding schools, convention facilities, residential developments as well as public transport and open space systems, the Museum positions itself as a beacon within a revitalized community poised for sustainable and resilient future growth.
Inspired by the vibrant and ecological rich river delta system, the Shenzhen Natural History Museums creates an iconic new regional destination through strategic connections to existing and restored ecological systems. This sets the stage for it to become not just a destination in its own right, but part of a much larger and more powerful cultural nucleus – one that draws together city and nature in a showcase that is both community focused and global in scope and ambition.