Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Project Profile: SM Tianjin Science Discovery Center Project to include 330-seat digital planetarium

by Matthew Dawson, Forrec

Work has begun on the design of a new Science Discovery Center and planetarium in Tianjin, China. When completed later this year, the Science Discovery Center will feature a state-of-the-art 330-seat digital planetarium, interactive science exhibitions, a travelling exhibition program, a retail area, snack bar and event space. Rather than a typical standalone project, this one is for a science center integrated within a large-scale shopping mall.

The Science Discovery Center is being built as part of the massive SM Tianjin mall project. When complete, SM Tianjin will be among the world’s largest free-standing malls, and almost 400,000 square meters in size with an additional 140,000 square meter parking structure. The mall design consists of three interlinked oval forms, each with four levels of retail. The Science Discovery Center will occupy about 3000 square meters on the third floor of one of the ovals.

The developer of SM Tianjin and the Science Discovery Center is Philippine-based SM Prime Holdings. SM Prime’s vision is be a leader in world-class mall development, committed to delivering on the daily needs of millions by offering a total mall experience and creating a richer, better, quality of life. The Science Discovery Center’s vision is to strive to become the premiere destination that presents a well-balanced experience of learning and leisure; to foster awareness, interest and appreciation of science and technology, and to improve the community’s quality of life. The Science Discovery Center, as a visitor attraction geared to the family market, will play a critical role in the mix of retail and leisure offerings within SM Tianjin. Especially in the early years of the mall’s operations, the Science Discovery Center will serve to draw families to the mall where it is located some distance from the city center.


The Science Discovery Center in Tianjin will be the third built by SM Prime, and the first outside of the Philippines. The first Science Discovery Center opened at SM Mall of Asia in Manila in 2006. A second opened in Lanang, Philippines in 2013. Based on the success of the first two Science Discovery Centers, the Tianjin project will be larger – with twice the seating capacity in the planetarium – and the first to be designed by Forrec, Ltd. of Toronto.

12-089 Science Center Entry-2 Night 3013.09.09The Design
Forrec’s goal with the design of the SM Tianjin Science Discovery Centre is to make science interesting, enjoyable and interactive for visitors of all ages. In creating an informal learning experience, Forrec’s design will expose visitors to scientific concepts in fun ways that fuel an interest in science, an interest that can be further explored elsewhere and in school.

The target audience is Tianjin families and school groups, with an expected high level of repeat visitation. The Science Discovery Center will shift its appearance to appeal to two different audience groups, a day-time one made up of school children and an evening audience that will shift to include teenagers and adults without children. During the day, the Science Discovery Center will be lit with natural light from overhead skylights. In the evenings, the exterior surface of the planetarium will serve as a dramatic projection surface, on to which moving images of our world will be projected.

Discovering the science of the Earth we share is the central theme of the design. Inspired by astronomer Carl Sagan’s term “the Pale Blue Dot”, the Science Discovery Centre will place sustainability, green design and care for the planet as the central design motif and storytelling principle. The planetarium itself will represent our shared world, and our experience of it. The storyline unfolds in exhibits grouped in three thematic areas that surround the planetarium:

1. Our Dynamic Earth: Earth Sciences and Climatology
In this area, visitors will experience the forces that shape our planet, starting with the fundamentals of materials science, and including a special emphasis on the drama of natural disasters such as avalanches, tsunamis, tornados and earthquakes.

2. Life on Earth: Ecology and the Environment
In this area, visitors will learn about the thin biosphere surrounding the Earth– the oceans, the land and the atmosphere – that supports all life, and what we can do to protect these environments. Along with ecology, visitors to this area will discover new innovations in sustainable technologies.

3. Our Inner World: Health and the Human Body
In this area, visitors will explore the world within each of our bodies. Visitors will learn how good nutritional choices, fitness and healthy living are important for sustaining ‘the world within’ each of us. • • •

About Forrec
Forrec is a planning and design firm that specializes in the creation of entertainment and leisure environments world-wide. Recognized globally as one of the largest and most experienced firms of its kind, Forrec stands alone in its ability to balance design creativity, operational savvy and fiscal practicality. With built projects in over twenty countries, Forrec has mastered the art of making memorable experiences by building big ideas.

Martin Palicki
Martin Palicki
Martin Palicki owns and publishes InPark Magazine. Started in 2004, InPark Magazine provides owners and operators the perspective from "in"side the "park." Martin has also written for publications like Sound & Communications, Lighting & Sound America, Attractions Management and others. Martin has been featured in Time Magazine, CNN.com and Folio. Martin lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA.

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