Chengdu, the capital of southwestern China’s Sichuan province, is famous for launching the careers of numerous Chinese science-fiction authors over the last 50 years. Home to Science Fiction World, the most-circulated science-fiction magazine on the planet, the city is known as the country’s leading sci-fi incubator. It is also an important global centre of scientific innovation and research.
Now, the brand-new Chengdu Science Fiction Museum, designed by world-famous architectural firm Zaha Hadid Architects, is set to be a centre of innovation and gathering for the city. The 59 000-square-metre area can host a variety of exhibitions, conferences and events across a series of galleries, theatres and halls.
Surrounded by mountain ranges and forests, Chengdu has a unique local culture rooted in its rich history that includes the mystical visions and extraterrestrial forms within the carvings and masks of the Bronze Age Sanxingdui civilisation. Referencing the location and its natural surroundings, the museum appears to float above the surface of Jingrong Lake, emulating a nebula cloud with a star at its centre, with radiating forms that expand outwards. This transforms the museum into a ‘“star cloud” that disperses energy fields into its many different zones, guiding visitors through a portal that connects our lived experience with our imagination,’ say the architects.
Integrating with the natural landscapes along the lakeshore, the museum is connected via a series of pedestrian routes that extend from the city through the surrounding parkland into the heart of the building, which has a sky-lit central atrium with a large window facing the nearby mountain.
The museum meets the highest standards of China’s Green Building Programme, with a hybrid ventilation system that optimises Chengdu’s mild subtropical climate to provide comfort for visitors and staff throughout the year, and photovoltaics on the large roof canopy that cover its energy demands. Landscaped with plants native to the region, the park surrounding the museum collects and stores rainwater for natural filtration and reuse, enabling Jingrong Lake to become an integral part of Chengdu’s sustainable drainage system that will mitigate flooding and increase biodiversity throughout the city.
In October 2023, the new building played host to the 81st annual World Science Fiction Convention, WorldCon, at which the 2023 Hugo Awards, the highest recognition for science-fiction and fantasy literature, were presented.