“Great public works are capable of changing cities and creating new spatial points of reference,” says Santiago Calatrava, a Spanish neo-futuristic architect, sculptor, and structural engineer. Calatrava received the prestigious AIA Gold Medal in 2005 and is noted for designing thought-evocative structures that become architectural icons of cities

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One of his masterpieces is an applied sciences museum, Museu do Amanhã or ‘The Museum of Tomorrow’, in the Port Region of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which opened to the public on December 18, 2015. In 2017, MIPIM awarded it the ‘Best Innovative Green Building’ Award, and it was also the first museum in Brazil to achieve LEED Gold Certification.

Design Philosophy

The museum’s design focuses on man’s interaction with his surroundings. The building’s architecture was inspired by the surrounding vegetation and Brazilian culture, particularly the bromeliads in the Botanical Gardens of Rio de Janeiro and the Carioca culture. The museum’s design philosophy is based on the fact that we must change if we are to avoid climatic, environmental, and societal disasters. All of these ideas are implemented in the building’s efforts to set new sustainability benchmarks.

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Museu do Amanhã, Brazil by Calatrava: Inspired by the Carioca culture - Sheet1
Aerial view of Museu do Amanhã _©Sérgio Huoliver

Concept

The design objective was to “evoke a basic idea through a story, told not just through language, but also sensory experiences to be felt by visitors” (Museu do Amanhã, 2017). The height of the museum is limited to 18 metres to keep it low and provide an unimpeded view of the adjacent São Bento Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Calatrava wanted to design a cultural facility that would project into the future. “Architecture from this point on will end up following this path, looking for a nature that is perhaps atmospheric, assuming the character of a living organism,” he claims.

Architectural Style

Imagining an ideal future is central to neo-futurism. Museu do Amanhã is “an experimental museum, where the content is presented in an interactive setting through a narrative that combines the accuracy of science with the expressiveness of art” (Institute of Development and Management, 2017). 

The exhibition begins with the major attraction, the Cosmos, which is a 360° movie space that shows us the origin of the universe to the present moment. The exhibition attempts to demonstrate the significant ways mankind is altering the Earth, and while man is causing long-lasting changes, the decisions we make now will determine our common future. Audio-visual elements are used to depict trends and scenarios. The visitors are taken on a journey across the realms of matter, life and thought.

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The Cosmos_©Bernard Lessa

The structure of the ‘Museum of Tomorrow’ is based on the major questions that humanity has always pondered. Who are we, exactly? What is our origin? Where are we? Where are we going? What is the best way for us to get there? This is a place where we can explore the many facets of our existence together.

The Belvedere Gallery and the Gallery of Times use the features of wooden light and sound displays. Because the Sun is continually rising somewhere else in the world, this sensory experience was created to convey the idea that it is always tomorrow. The Museum of Tomorrow is an interactive and informative exhibition that looks at the opportunities and challenges that humanity will face in the future.

Museu do Amanhã, Brazil by Calatrava: Inspired by the Carioca culture - Sheet3
Interactive audio-visual works of art_©Luiz Souza
Museu do Amanhã, Brazil by Calatrava: Inspired by the Carioca culture - Sheet4
Belvedere Gallery and Gallery of Times_©Byron Prujansky

Building Layout

The Museum has both temporary and permanent exhibition spaces, as well as a plaza that wraps around the building and runs the length of the dock. The museum’s extension from the dock into Guanabara Bay is highlighted by enormous overhangs on the structure. “The cantilevering roof with its large mobile wings and the façade structure expand almost the full length of the pier, emphasizing the extension into the bay while minimizing the building’s width” (Ashaboglu, 2016). The building is oriented north-south to create a continuous landscape feature with beautiful gardens, walkways, and recreational places.

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Museu do Amanhã, Brazil by Calatrava: Inspired by the Carioca culture - Sheet5
Ground Floor Plan_©www.museudoamanha.org.br
Museu do Amanhã, Brazil by Calatrava: Inspired by the Carioca culture - Sheet6
First Floor Plan_©www.museudoamanha.org.br
Museu do Amanhã, Brazil by Calatrava: Inspired by the Carioca culture - Sheet7
Second Floor Plan_©www.museudoamanha.org.br
Museu do Amanhã, Brazil by Calatrava: Inspired by the Carioca culture - Sheet8
Building Section_©www.museudoamanha.org.br

Materials and Construction

The museum is built entirely of recycled materials. The structure’s exterior has been painted white to give it an airy, light appearance, making it appear almost ethereal and other-worldly. Solar energy, rainwater harvesting and native plants are also used. All of the water used on site is treated and recycled, allowing for sustainable water management. 

The museum has two huge windows for natural light, one at the entrance and one at the rear end, in keeping with its sustainable design. The glass doors provide a seamless passage from the outside to the inside and vice versa. The doors spanning the width of the museum are set beneath the half-circle-shaped windows.

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Efficient use of natural light_©Thales Leite

The reflecting ponds that encircle the enormous edifice constructed by architect Santiago Calatrava are one of the Museum of Tomorrow’s main attractions. They give the sensation that the building is floating on water. The water in the mirrors originates from the Guanabara Bay and is chlorinated to create a microclimate that is up to 2º C cooler than the usual in Central Rio de Janeiro. In 2018, an eco-friendlier electrolytic system was installed for producing chlorine from saltwater, resulting in significant cost savings.

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Architectural Lighting and Reflecting Ponds_©Andrés Otero

References

[1] Ashaboglu, S., 2016. The Museum of Tomorrow. [Online] Available at: https://www.architectmagazine.com/project-gallery/the-museum-of-tomorrow_o [Accessed 19 August 2021].

[2] Institute of Development and Management, 2017. About the Museum. [Online] Available at: https://museudoamanha.org.br/en/about-the-museum [Accessed 17 August 2021].

[3] Museu do Amanhã, 2017. The Shapes of Time. [Online] Available at: https://museudoamanha.org.br/livro/en/21-as-formas-do-tempo.html# [Accessed 17 August 2021].

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