The Museum of Tomorrow in Rio de Janeiro, by Santiago Calatrava.

The Museum of Tomorrow in Rio de Janeiro, by Santiago Calatrava.

The Museum of Tomorrow (Museu do Amanhã), designed by architect Santiago Calatrava (http://www.calatrava.com) , has just been inaugurated in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Located on Mauá Pier, the museum is the cornerstone of the plan to revitalise Rio’s previously derelict old port district, Porto Maravilha (meaning “marvellous port”), an area intrinsically linked with Rio’s cultural history. According to Calatrava, Carioca culture and Brazilian nature, particularly the bromeliads in Rio’s Botanical Gardens, were both sources of inspiration for its design.

An innovative space dedicated to the future of the planet, the museum houses 5,000 square metres of indoor space, including permanent and temporary exhibition spaces, a 400-seat auditorium, a cafe, a restaurant, a gift shop, an educational lab, and the Observatory of Tomorrow, a home for technological and scientific research. The building is surrounded by a 7,600 square metre plaza, with gardens, bike paths, leisure areas and a reflecting pool, which creates the impression it is floating on water. “The idea is that the building feels ethereal, almost floating on the sea, like a ship, a bird or a plant,” said Calatrava.

Running almost the full length of the pier, the structure is perpendicular to Guanabara Bay, emphasizing its cantilevered roof, which juts diagonally into the sky, extending 75 metres over the plaza and 45 meters out towards the sea. The height was limited to 18 meters to protect the view of the bay from Sao Bento monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Respectively, both the museum and the plaza offer panoramic views of the monastery.

The sculptural, fluid forms of the exterior are echoed in the all-white interior of curving walls, windows, skylights, staircases, and ceilings.

The structure features sustainable design elements, incorporating natural energy and light sources; The roof’s ‘wings’ are covered with photovoltaic solar panels that move to follow the position of the sun, generating energy for the museum, while water from the bay is used to fill the reflecting pools and regulate the temperature inside the building before being returned to the sea.

The permanent exhibition, curated by physicist and cosmologist Luiz Alberto Oliveira, is housed in the building’s top floor. Hugo Barreto, director of content, said the museum aimed to educate visitors about the need for sustainability:

When people think of the ‘Future’, it usually seems very far away. That’s why we called the museum ‘Tomorrow’. It’s closer. It depends on what we do today.

Given this point of view, the main exhibition is unsurprisingly not a science fiction inspired spectacular display of lasers, and space travel to a galaxy far far away. In fact, there is practically no technology on display; the exhibition is almost entirely digital, focusing on ideas rather than objects and ecology more than technology. Through displays extending from the origins of the planet to our possible futures, the exhibition addresses where we come from, where we are and where we are heading by touching on topics like climate change, population growth, distribution of wealth, changes in biodiversity, technological advances, and genetic engineering and bioethics, it aims to highlight the need for change if mankind is to avoid climate disaster and environmental degradation.

 

Photography:Bernard Miranda Lessa and Thales Leite

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