July 12 (UPI) -- China's new Shanghai Astronomy Museum, set to open next week, will be the world's largest planetarium in terms of building scale, its American designers said Monday.
"At 420,000 square feet, the new astronomical branch of the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum will be the largest museum worldwide solely dedicated to the study of astronomy," Ennead Architects of New York City said in a website post.
The massive new museum will open Sunday after successfully completing a test run last week, the state-run press agency Xinhua reported.
Situated in a pilot free trade zone known as the Lingang Special Area, the museum will house temporary and permanent exhibits, a 78-foot solar telescope, an observatory, an optical planetarium, an education and research center and a "digital sky theater."
Its programming will include immersive environments, artifacts and instruments of space exploration and educational exhibits.
But to Ennead, the design of the museum's buildings is the most striking element.
The architecture features three principal forms -- the Oculus, the Inverted Dome and the Sphere -- with each acting as "functioning astronomical instruments, tracking the sun, moon, and stars and reminding visitors that our conception of time originates in distant astronomical objects."
"In linking the new museum to both scientific purpose and to the celestial references of buildings throughout history, the exhibits and architecture will communicate more than scientific content: they will illuminate what it means to be human in a vast and largely unknown universe," Ennead design partner Thomas Wong said in the release.