Museums came into existence 2500 years ago as private collections of wealthy individuals, families, or institutions of art and rare or curious natural objects and artifacts. Over time the evolution of every aspect of society took place, the museum has also reframed itself as a more of learning space, interactive and collaborative space, and not merely just an exhibiting area. One such example of a reframed museum, The Exploratorium is breaking all the barriers of a stereotypical museum and is introducing itself as a next-gen first hands-on lab interactive science learning center and museum from 1968.
The Exploratorium is an invention of yet another ordinary man who was a physicist and a university professor who did try working like a mediocre in the traditional laboratories and universities but ended up with the conclusion of working and exploring methods of provoking curiosity and inquiry in young minds and thus developed the world’s first hands-on institute and an interactive museum.
The Exploratorium is an interactive science museum that has moved from its former home of 40 years near the park-like Presidio to a prominent waterfront site in downtown San Francisco and is designed by EEHD, a renowned architecture firm.
Being an absolute example of interactive design, The Exploratorium site contains over 600 exhibits, out of which almost all the exhibits are developed on the site itself except a few art installations. The whole space is divided into 6 spatial arrangements categorized mainly into indoors and outdoors, each emphasizing onto a specific content group. The mobility of the content displayed was a prime concern of the designers. Majorly all the exhibits are movable except for a few exceptions. A huge range of areas of interest has been covered here in The Exploratorium like the life sciences, physical phenomena, local environment, human perception, and human behavior. The Exploratorium is also initiating its commitment to sustainability into a splendid learning experience by proclaiming elements of the building’s green design on the site.
One can also find The Teacher Institute, founded in the year 1984, an Exploratorium-based competent advancement program intending towards middle and high school science teachers. Along with providing workshops at the museum that teach hands-on and inquiry-based teaching methods, it caters to coaches and support for apprentice teachers.
Energy conservation and sustainability were the major issues taken into consideration in the designing of this iconic structure. This museum follows a “zero energy goal”. Zero energy goals signify that The Exploratorium will produce more of the energy than what it’ll consume. Adding another task of complexity to the renovation of the gusty shed was an early goal to make the new facility net-zero wastage of any sort of resources. For radiant heating and cooling systems, the new slab is entrenched with more than 40 miles of plastic tubing. Along with zero energy wastage, the museum uses the HVAC system to make the utmost use of the relatively constant, moderate temperature of the bay waters under the piers. Ventilation is also being taken care of here.
Displacement ventilation distribution is opted to bring the outdoor air inside with the dedicated outdoor air system (DOAS).
This has ultimately resulted in less of the ductwork and has been a cost-saving option. 338,000 Us gallons of rainwater and fog are collected in two large cisterns lying under the structural beams running southeast. Waterless urinals and dual-flush toilets are used to save about an annual million gallons of water. Traditional evaporative cooling towers have been replaced by the water heated by the bay and its cooling system.
Utter use of natural light leads to the aim of sustainability. Overhead skylight and many clerestory windows through the length of interior space provide ample amount of light.
High-performance glazing is being provided to the existing windows.
Following the historic background of the museum, no major changes have been made to its façade and it has helped in providing an ample amount of sunlight to the interiors.
LEED Platinum certification was awarded to the Exploratorium in January 2014. According to the New York Times, “After a two-year post-opening shakedown period of monitoring and adjusting the systems, the Exploratorium hopes to become the largest net-zero-energy-use museum in the United States and possibly the world.”
Docking the end of Pier 15 and being the only new structure on the campus is a two-story glass box that houses a publicly accessible restaurant at ground-level and a bay observatory on the upper level. This gallery is a showcase for a series of exhibits focusing on the surrounding ecosystems. “For 40 years, we’ve been taking Mother Nature and shrinking her to table-top size. Now, we get to go outside and play with her,” says Bartels in an interview.
Several activities in fields of art, science and many other fields take place regularly here. A museum where one not only sees stuff but learns a few! Isn’t this amazing? A self-sustained, far beyond the stereotypical world, here we’ve found a dream destination for every science, art enthusiast, and surely a retreat for every architecture fanatic! The Exploratorium is gloriously and rightfully being idolized as a perfect example of a sustainable and modernist structure. Indeed! The future is here.