Jutting diagonally into the sky from the old port of Rio de Janeiro is an other-worldly construction that looks like a cross between an armoured dinosaur and some kind of flattened, solar-powered Sydney Opera house.
The Museu do Amanhã (Museum of Tomorrow), which opened in December 2015, is surely already one of the world’s most extraordinary buildings.
Mixing science and art, the institution devotes itself to a topic that is divisive and often depressing: the need for change if mankind is to avoid climate disaster, environmental degradation and social collapse.
The museum is the most striking example yet of the regeneration and gentrification of Rio’s port district. Ten years ago this was one of the city’s poorest and most crime-ridden areas. Today it is in the midst of a vast redevelopment that should make it one of the most desirable areas in Rio. The ugly overhead expressway – the Perimetral – has thankfully been demolished, new plazas have opened up, the poor have been driven out and the wealthy corporate residents, including Trump Tower developers, are being invited in.
To attract them, a new Museum of Art was completed here a few years ago. It is impressive, but the Museum of Tomorrow is on another scale altogether.
Based in the Centro neighbourhood, the structure – which was supposed to have opened before 2014's World Cup – will likely become one of Rio’s most famous tourist sights. With solar spines that bristle above and a fan-like skylight below, it is designed to adapt to changing environmental conditions. Catalan architect Santiago Calatrava says he was inspired by the bromeliads in Rio’s Botanical Gardens. The building itself is 338 meters long and 20 meters high inside.
Construction of the unusual looking Museum of Tomorrow began in 2011 and had 1,200 workers working on the project, who worked for 24 hours a day in three shifts. The facility has an auditorium with 400 seats, a shop, cafeteria and restaurant. On the outside, beyond the reflecting pool, it has gardens, bike paths and recreational space in a total area of 34,600 square meters.
Funded by the Rio city government with support from sponsors, the building attempts to set new standards of sustainability in the municipality. Compared with conventional buildings, designers say it uses 40% less energy (including the 9% of its power it derives from the sun), and the cooling system taps deep water from nearby Guanabara Bay.
The museum aims to set itself apart from other science museums by editorialising about the near-term need for sustainability.
The museum is called tomorrow as people think the 'Future' usually seems very far away, ‘Tomorrow’ is closer. The future depends on what we do today.
For anyone who believes the biggest challenges facing our species are environmental rather than economic and that the most likely solutions are behavioural rather than technological, Rio’s Museu do Amanhã may come to stand out as one of the most engaged museums in the world.
Situated in the centre of the city (Centro), getting to the Museum of tomorrow by taxi from Zona Sul is the easiest option and will cost around 40R each way. If you want to get the metro (under 4R each way), the nearest station is Presidente Vargas. You get off there and it's a 15 minute, 1km walk to the museum, (head north-east toward the sea!) it's well sign posted.
You almost see the museum in the north east corner of the map, above Centro and to the east of the boat.
You buy tickets when you get there, it's nice and cheap at 10R or just 5R for over 60's. It's free on Tuesdays, bargain!
Open from Tuesday to Sunday, 12pm - 7pm. You need to arrive early at the moment due to the large queues. Closed during Carnval.
Closed on Mondays
For more details check the official Museum of Tomorrow site.
The Museum only opened in December 2015 and it's the busiest time of the year in Rio (Dec-March), at the time of writing (Jan 2016) the queues there are pretty crazy. Expect to queue for about 3 hours unless you get there before it opens!
The Museum is closed on Mondays!