Shanghai Natural History Museum

Shanghai, N/A / China

The Cell Wall is the iconic feature of the Shanghai Natural History Museum, and is the main design feature from the initial competition phase. Composed of three layers, each with its own unique geometrical pattern and organic form, the wall is organized in an elliptical cone shape envelope. At the core is the main layer, the structural cell layer, which emphasizes the organic cells as structural building blocks of nature. An inner layer, the waterproof envelope of the building, is formed by the glass and aluminum mullion curtain-wall, and an outer layer provides a solar screen, emulating the cellular building block of all life forms.

In resolving complex organic geometries set to a full-scale building, there is a wealth of theoretical research on the subject of mesh structures, but very few built examples where these mesh geometries fully function as structural building elements and are built to architectural scale. To that extent, a historical approach to problem-solving was of little use in imagining and designing the cell wall, and instead innovative, original approach was sought out to achieve the elegantly complex and seemingly random organic patterns of the wall within the constraints of readily-available rectilinear building materials and structural realities.

Architect of Record


Associate Architect

Tongji University Architectural Design & Research Institute


Shanghai Science & Technology Museum

General Contractor

Shanghai Construction Group


  • Shanghai Science & Technology Museum
  • Tongji University Architectural Design & Research Institute
  • Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects