OPEN architecture unveils its competition entry for the shenzhen maritime museum with its envisioned ‘the icebergs and the sea.’ expressing influence from geological formations, the proposal comprises six glass ‘iceberg’ volumes which rise from the subtropical waters of the chinese city. with the project, the design team seeks to raise further awareness of the issues of global warming and marine environmental protection. the collection of icebergs introduces a playful and unexpected icon to the subtropical urban context, while offering a stern reminder that the reality of melting icebergs is not as distant as we might feel.

OPEN shenzhen icebergs



OPEN architecture envisions ‘the icebergs and the sea’ as its maritime museum competition proposal, a project which will mark one of shenzhen’s ‘ten new major cultural facilities.’ the selected entry will stand as a new cultural landmark as the city strives to develop itself as a global maritime center. with even though its immediate coastal site has not yet been developed, its ecology is already registering significant human disturbances with extensive fish farming, nuclear power stations, and petroleum plants. the team views the project as an opportunity, that is at once exciting and perilous — to build an ocean awareness museum on the ocean. the team aims to act carefully during this time of great environmental urgency.

OPEN shenzhen icebergs



in the design of its ‘icebergs and the sea’ shenzhen maritime museum proposal, OPEN architecture begins with an investigation of coastal ecology. with this point of departure, the team proposes to turn confrontation into symbiosis. the planned sea dike, hard and tall, will be replaced with a ‘soft zone of defense’ between two layers of seawalls at different heights. this interstitial zone will be occupied by a restored mangrove wetland, a natural protective barrier, which further serves as a habitat for marine life and migrating birds.

OPEN shenzhen icebergs



above the roof of the main exhibition space is the man-made inland sea pond which levels with the higher seawall. this strategy not only minimizes the impact of the frequent seasonal typhoons on the building, but also greatly reduces the heat load on this large-scale exhibition building in the subtropical climate. the main exhibition space is an expansive and tall floor allowing for maximum flexibility and easy curatorial operation. all exhibition rooms can be individually and conveniently serviced by a logistics corridor loop.

OPEN shenzhen icebergs




the research, office and storage components of the museum are accommodated in a glacier-like sloping volume covered by vegetation. naturally filtered water drawn from the mangrove wetland runs down the sloping roof, gets further filtration by the roots of plants, and finally enters the inland sea pond to compensate for evaporation. five double-layered glass iceberg-like volumes rise from the inland sea which house the main public programs: lobby, theater, library, and children’s education, while providing visitors the sense of orientation and places to rest. one iceberg ‘drifts’ away into the ocean, with an impressive dome theater inside. it’s the apex of the whole museum journey.

OPEN shenzhen icebergsOPEN architecture envisions shenzhen maritime museum as a cluster of glass icebergs



project info:


project title: the icebergs and the sea

competition: shenzhen maritime museum

architecture: OPEN architecture

location: shenzhen, china

principals in charge: li hu, huang wenjing

design team: zhou tingting, liu xiaoyang, wen peng, nie cong, tang ziqiao, jia han, lin yinong, li xiwei, wang shiyu, xu jiayue, xie linjing, cai zhuoqun

scenographer: dUCKS scéno

sustainability, mechanical engineering: arup

structural engineering: guy nordenson and associates

coastal mangrove wetlands ecosystem consultant: zhou haichao

CG artist: SAN

building area: 57,756 square meters

design year: 2020

status: competition