The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, located in Indiana, USA, is the playfully interactive abode that houses the most singular of exhibits in spaces designed to celebrate the colorful nature of children. Garnering the title of the world’s largest children’s museum, it attends to over a million visitors annually who seek to witness the experimental displays which in turn, add to the participatory environment of the institution. As a major tourism driver for the city, the museum has undergone several developmental changes, all conceived by architects that envision a facility that sets itself apart from the linear definition of a museum by engaging artistic measures in elements throughout.
Spread across an area of over 470,000 square meters, the museum was designed with a network arrangement of the spaces, keeping in mind children as the primary users. The museum itself is spread across five levels in the main building, each of which adopts subtle periodization through the respective artifacts; and much like the links in history itself, to connect the five levels, there stands a giant spiral ramp that allows access to all the visitors using wheelchairs, strollers, and walkers alike.
Confined within the universally designed ramp, the extensive atrium within it flaunts an extravagant four-storey glass sculpted installation called the “Fireworks of Glass” which was created by Dale Chihuly in 2006. As the focal point for a visual connection into the elevations, the multicolored composition effectively stimulates vertical circulation along the central core walkway.
The cultural facility welcomes the visitors, children, and parents alike, with physiologically accurate sculptures of a pair of dinosaurs crashing into the main building, the placement of which is suggestive of inciting greater footfall, and the pair and an Alamosaurus crashing out of the Dinosphere, both of which were created and painted by Gary Staab and Brian Cooley. The exhibit also enjoys a colorful façade which is just as much in motion as are the dinosaur sculptures, the effect achieved through technological interventions, it subtly prompts one to explore.
Equipped with several family-friendly activities, learning experiences with paleontologists, hands-on archaeology excavation experiments, and a T-Rex fossil free to touch, the Dinosphere can host several hundred visitors for them to take a trip into age 65 million years ago.
Besides the said pair, another pivotal attraction on the museum’s premises is the newly installed exhibit of “Beyond Spaceship Earth”. Re-imagined by RATIO Designs, the former planetarium was transformed into an immersive theatre with factually accurate setups that act out along the curiosity of the children.
The playful composition of the architectural display is one that also integrates engineering feats such as a spherical projection screen that mirrors the actuality of interstellar space, incorporated with automated hydraulic lifts that are capable of lifting satellites and crew capsules up to 10 feet into the air; it also has meticulously planned alcoves across the exhibit for artifact displays.
Innovatively redesigning the structure, the architects successfully created an ISS based exhibit that not only complements the existing composition but also materializes an exploratory ground within and around it, all for the inquisitive child.
With thought-provoking masterpieces spread across the five stories of the main building, the museum redefines ‘learning through entertainment’, especially a marvel for one that was established in the mid-1900s. “Take Me There”, a special temporary exhibit seeks to map the entirety of earth by embodying one single country in a space that celebrates its culture, heritage, and people by switching between nations every couple of years; with realistic arrangements, the children and parents preview themselves the country through vernacular activities and following the respective traditions.
Another exclusive exhibit is the “Wild Weather” which was meticulously installed by employing new emerging technologies; it encourages children to be self-aware about climate change by experiencing the weather itself. Salvaged from the Broad Ripple Park, the “Carousel” on level 4 is a much-frequented gem of the museum that digs its roots deep into Indiana since 1917, still vibrant with colors and running!
The museum though, having undergone several additions through the years, retains its authentic outdoor spaces that are quintessential for any and every child to be in, the environment of communication, sensory appeal through nature, and others.
Boasting a wide range of outdoor sports activities like football, hockey, and spaces like the tree of sports, a grand exhibit on the culture of sports, and a gallery on sports art, the outdoor spaces are equipped with hosting several temporary exhibitions across the year; that paired with areas like playscapes and feature walls that recite the history of different communities, the museum fully exploits all of its physical space to deliver a unique experience and then some more.
As an institution to have been standing for decades, so strongly dedicated to incentivizing superlative curiosity in children; the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis does more than just act as a field for exploration for children; it is what leads them to view education more holistically by involving the parents and adults, and in turn, influencing the growth of the communities, all for a better future, all to catalyze the nation.