The Tianjin Museum along with the New Natural History Museum, Art Museum and Library are organized along a cultural corridor within the master plan which is inspired by the founding of Tianjin as the "Land of the Heavenly Ford." The buildings are sited as a sequence of water passages, garden and plazas that engage the public as they pass through the site. Each cultural building incorporates a unique plaza as both an educational device and public interaction space. The Tianjin Museum's City plaza presents the layers of Tianjin history as an occupiable plaza of green space, water and seating at the lake level, while being an educational device that interacts with the City View Window at the upper level of the museum. Similarly, the Art center would incorporate a large art plaza and the library a grand Knowledge plaza representing a contrast of the written words housed within the library and the temporary interaction of the public.
The concept of the Tianjin museum is based on an abstraction of a series of historical elements which are key to the founding of Tianjin. The water and pedestrian walkways that surround the museum recall the saltern beds which were part of the salt industry that was, and still is, one of the major industries of Tianjin. The crystalline form of salt is also the inspiration for the façade system and atrium. The "Crystal Atrium" forms the grand preface hall and rises above the lower scale massing of the main building as a focal point. The crystalline form of salt is also the inspiration for the façade system which consists of individual cast translucent glass cubes that will react with natural lighting conditions to enliven the presence of the museum within it's context.
The museum's expression is also based on Tianjin's identity with bridges which provide adaptable methods of passage and are part of its urban structure. The uplifted form of the entry recalls the first modern operable bridge which was located in Tianjin. The bridges in the atrium also recall the traditional pedestrian bridges in the historical structure of Tianjin.
The galleries are organized around the atrium so that the visitor can interact with the exhibits in a variety of ways including thematic or chronological. The Tianjin window is a focal point of the various exhibit sequences and also provides views of the old city along with the Tianjin City plaza below.