It started out as a simple, standard project…The Shanghai Glass Company, a state-owned enterprise, first approached the architects at logon two years ago to redesign the exterior of its deserted glass factory in Baoshan District into the first glass museum in China, which would soon be known as the Shanghai Museum of Glass.
However, much deliberation within the logon project team led to the realization that the client’s visualization of the museum would not be financially viable, primarily due to its marginalized location.
Baoshan District, a historically industrial region, sits far up north on the outskirts of central Shanghai. Although the district is served by Shanghai’s Metro Network, the lines do not yet extend north to central Baoshan, rendering the journey quite cumbersome for many city dwellers.
“Baoshan is so far out that the museum had to be worth going all the way out there for,” says Mario Barkley, the project architect and manager at logon, a German-based international design office that specializes in urban planning, architecture and landscape design.
So the team designed and built what it calls a ‘Type Two’ museum, which allows various other functions around the main exhibition areas to provide visitors the chance to participate, act and experience for not just a few hours but possibly the entire day.
And that’s how G+ Glass Theme Park was conceived. The concept of it, anyway.
“It took half a year to convince the client of our idea,” Barkley says.
G+ Glass Theme Park—a 40,300 sq. m. glass-themed site encompassing the museum—would not only be dedicated to glass but also art, research and technology.
The construction of the park has been divided up into four phases: Phase 1, which entailed the construction of the museum, was completed in May. Phase 2, a concept still in development, would involve commercializing the space behind the museum by building a café, restaurant and art workshops. Phases 3 and 4 would be dedicated to showcasing science and technology, and developing a business park, respectively.
“When our client first came to us, he only wanted the museum,” Barkley says. “But we knew that the museum would not work alone because of a building block. You couldn’t even see the museum from the road.”
The building block was a large piece of property at the face of the road blocking the museum-to-be from sight, and most importantly, was not owned by logon’s client.
“So we convinced our client to buy the property blocking it and to demolish them for better visual [for the museum] when you drive along the road,” Barkley says.
The Shanghai Museum of Glass serves as the landmark, identity and main entrance of G+ Glass Theme Park, says Pascal Hartmann from the logon lab; logon’s in-house research and development (R&D) department director.
“The exterior of the museum—we wanted to make it stand out, iconic and easy to recognize,” Hartmann says.
And so they did, while preserving the original factory building. Using a U-shaped industry glass obtained all the way in Germany, the logon team designed and added on a new, contemporary face to the structure. It is sleek black and embellished with glass-related words in 10 different languages, which illuminate prominently at night.
“There wasn’t a specific source of inspiration for the design,” Hartmann says. “The overall concept was internally developed, and that’s why the façade [of the museum] is very unique.”
Very unique and international, catering to the client’s request.
“For the client, it’s been very important to open it up to the international audience,” Hartmann says. “It’s already gaining recognition internationally.”
A significant part of the museum’s success can be attributed to its dedication to visitor experience rather than providing space for a mere, two-dimensional exhibition. From the start, the logon team wanted to separate the Shanghai Museum of Glass from the pack by incorporating this interaction in its design.
“We visited a lot of museums, but one thing we didn’t like was that they were too focused on the exhibition only,” Hartmann says. “Our key from the beginning was the experience and the interaction, encouraging you to discover things.”
Utilizing the site’s open space to its advantage, Hartmann and the team designed a main axis that runs through the center of the plaza, making the rest of the park much more accessible from the museum. From there, they determined the distribution of functions on the site, working towards achieving synergy among the buildings, Hartmann says.
“The layout of the site is very interactive and free; it encourages people to explore on their own,” he says.
It was also Hartmann’s idea to provide a space for showcasing glass-making in the museum. The client initially said it was too expensive, but Hartmann explained that the hot glass show would not only occupy the visitors’ interest for a substantial amount of time but would also be profitable as the museum could sell those glass arts in the gift shop.
And it seems as though these ideas have been working. Since the museum’s opening last month, it has received around 200 visitors a day on the weekends.
Barkley says that although logon has built many culture facilities in China, this project has been quite special.
“This was an unusual client because they were passionate about the project,” he says. “They wanted to give something back to society. They didn’t have a clear business orientation; instead, they had a more cultural mindset. It was something new, but it was nice to work on.”
Luckily it’s not over yet. Here’s to three more phases of glassy fun.
By Esther Kang