The Fundació ”la Caixa” inaugurates CosmoCaixa Barcelona, the new Science Museum
Barcelona, 22 September 2004
From the existence of elementary particles to the age of Quixote, some 13,700 million years of evolution have taken place. This is the lengthy journey that can be undertaken by visitors to CosmoCaixa Barcelona, the new, Fundació ”la Caixa” Science Museum. This new space has been created with all kinds of public in mind, offering a wide range of scientific and educational themes, and is a space where visitors will be able to enjoy exhibitions, workshops, courses, talks and discussions. The new Museum aims to stimulate scientific knowledge, to encourage visitors’ direct participation and to become a meeting place for science and society. A combination of universal exhibits and an innovative museography make this one of the most modern museums of its kind in Europe. The new, 50,000-m2 building expands the scientific offer of its predecessor, which has now been relocated in the exhibition rooms, the Flooded Forest, the Geological Wall, the Planetarium, Clik, Flash, the Assembly Hall, the workshop classrooms and the Plaça de la Ciència, among others. The latter is a huge space covering some 6,000 m2, open to residents and visitors to the city of Barcelona and enabling them to take part first-hand in the scientific process from the street, as a good deal of the Museum’s interior may be seen from the Plaça thanks to the large transparent openings in the walls, one of the architectural features which define the new building.
Twenty-three years ago, the Fundació ”la Caixa” inaugurated the Barcelona Science Museum, the first interactive museum in Spain. With the passage of time, constant rises in visitor numbers and the need to embrace new scientific discoveries, the Fundació decided to enlarge the institution. The result was the construction of a new Science Museum, a space open to everyone and filled with activities for a varied public; a meeting point for science and society and a place to talk, debate and reflect.
The Museum exhibits have been chosen to suit the interests and tastes of each visitor and ensure that the time spent there is always considered worthwhile. Thus, in addition to touring the installations room by room, a series of theme-based itineraries has been produced which connect the Museum’s different modules and spaces, facilitating thematic routes as well as visits of a more dynamic nature.
CosmoCaixa Barcelona is to be found at the foot of Tibidabo on the site of the previous Museum, situated between Teodor Roviralta, Císter and Quatre Camins streets and the Ronda de Dalt, and may be reached from the Ronda de Dalt or the Quatre Camins street.
A new Museum for a New Museography
The project for the new centre is the work of the architects Esteve and Robert Terradas and has been designed on the basis of museographical criteria, while at the same time preserving the surroundings and the Modernista building that housed the previous science museum. The building housing the new Museum consists of nine storeys, six of which are underground.
This new centre, designed taking into account the needs of the new exhibits on display inside, is inspired in principles which have been put to the test over the twenty-three years of Science Museum experience accumulated by Fundació ”la Caixa”, whose philosophy centres on an interest in all, an interdisciplinary approach, self criticism, and emotion as the vehicle of communication.
Museum priorities are focused on enabling visitors to understand reality; the museography employed is thus based on objects and real phenomena. Visitors will enjoy a museographical experience not limited merely to manual interactivity, but also offering mental and emotional interactivity using all five senses.
The museographical offer is to be found in the new extension connected to the Modernista building by the entrance lobby. The new construction floor-plan measures 140 x 65 metres and the full height of the new building, from the new entrance lobby roof to the car park, is some 27 metres, a combination which will facilitate the display of highly diverse range of installations, each in a suitable space.
The new centre is divided into different areas. The offices, technical services, and workshop classrooms have been housed in the former Science Museum building, along with one of the Museum entrances which leads to the new lobby, where the Museum Shop and Information Service are to be found.
The Exhibition Rooms
The Museum’s permanent exhibition, the Matter Room, occupies an area of approximately 3,500 m2. The room’s height varies between 6 and 13 metres, enabling the design of a wide range of museographical projects. Two of the most exceptional spaces in the Museum are also found in this zone: the Geological Wall, with a surface of some 310 m2, and the Flooded Forest, covering 1,000 m2.
The permanent exhibition follows a journey through the history of matter, from the Big Bang to the present day. It is divided into four sections: Inert Matter, where visitors find explicative modules describing the origin of the universe, the laws of physics and chance, and the objects and phenomena of day-to-day life; Living Matter, which explains developments from the emergence of the first, single-cell organisms on Earth to the first ecosystems and their adaptations, evolutions and revolutions; Intelligent Matter, with the evolution of life starting out from the neurone and development of the brain; and Civilised Matter, from the beginnings of humanity to the engineering of materials which lead to the invention of new forms of matter.
Geology of the world
The Geological Wall consists of seven huge slices of rock of diverse origin. It occupies a 65-metre-long wall and includes sections of rock with a number of geological structures that may be found anywhere in the world. Surface processes such as those brought about by water and wind can be seen, as well as the clash of continents, the birth of a rock and so on. These are some of the processes that contribute to forming the geology of planet Earth. The aim of the exhibit is to enable visitors to interpret each slice of rock and be able to recognise rocks as an essential part of the landscape that surrounds them.
The Amazon in Barcelona
It is now possible to experience the Amazon, feel the sensations it arouses and hike through the Amazon jungle without leaving Barcelona. CosmoCaixa has recreated a part of the Amazon: the Flooded Forest. A huge variety of fish, amphibians, insects, reptiles, mammals, birds and plant species from the zone combine to offer an insight into an ecosystem as priceless as it is fragile, by recreating an area of Amazonian jungle in a glasshouse covering some 1,000 m2. The flooded forests of the Amazon are one of the most important habitats on the planet. The new Science Museum sets out not only to demonstrate this facet, but will also provide space for other elements that make up the Amazon jungle ecosystem: the open river, dry land, the aerial environment and so on. Visitors will have the opportunity to penetrate the Amazon jungle, thanks to the first museographical flooded forest ever recreated in a science museum.
The temporary exhibitions section opens with The Iguanas and The red line. How to make wood without mistreating the Forest. “The Iguanas” exhibition consists in the fossilised remains of six iguanodon skeletons found in Bernissart (Belgium), one of the best-preserved groups of dinosaurs in the world, being exhibited outside the Institut Royal des Sciences Naturelles of Brussels for the very first time. These remains illustrate 40 million years of history, over 100 million years of geological transformation and more than a century of scientific studies giving rise to a number of diverse theories. The exhibition, which may be seen until October 2005, examines these theories which, over the years, have led to a re-thinking of the iguanodon concept.
In contrast, “The red line. How to make wood without mistreating the Forest”, sets out to stimulate visitors’ interest in sustainability and to raise awareness of the importance of applying well thought-out plans in the management of natural reserves and their exploitation. Forests are the ecosystems which contain the world’s greatest degree of biodiversity and the way in which these natural reserves are managed will determine whether they are preserved or disappear. The limit is established by “the red line”. The exhibition presents two cases of sustainable forest exploitation currently being put into practice: one from the Amazon and located in Treviso (Brazil), and the other from the Mediterranean, in the Montseny Natural Park.
Science inside and outside the Museum
The best atmosphere in which to create incentives to foster scientific knowledge is to be found in a museum. Aware of this, we have destined a good deal of the area of this new centre to spaces for discussion and reflection in which current concerns and questions of social interest can be raised and discussed. These spaces are the Agora, the Auditorium, the workshop classrooms and the Planetarium. The cutting edge technology of the Digistar Planetarium allows visitors to submerge themselves both in the nearer zones of the universe as well as in its most distant corners. It is also anticipated that this room will be used to hold discussions on the latest discoveries in astronomy.
Touch Touch! is a space which enables visitors to discover the great landscapes of the planet Earth. Aimed at people of all ages, it sets out to encourage respect for nature. Visitors will be offered the opportunity to see and touch animals and plants from the jungle, the Mediterranean and the dessert.
Education constitutes another of the Museum’s priority areas. Clik and Flash, two spaces in which to experiment and discover different scientific phenomena, have been designed with a view to bringing science closer to children; this is also the case with the Bubble Planetarium, where the very young can gain their first experience in the fascinating world of astronomy.
Science in the street
The Plaça de la Ciència is a space covering some 6,000 m2 intended for use by the public in general; a vantage point enjoying views of Barcelona and laid out with a Mediterranean garden, where science may be shared from the street thanks to the five huge modules from which it is formed. Visitors will be able to take part in the programme of activities which will be held in the Plaça, understand chaos theory, discover the whims of sound, the passage of time and so on.
Scientific and Educational Promotion Programmes
The new Science Museum is intended to become a centre of international recognition. In November 2004 the centre will host the ECSITE conference, an entity which organises meetings of scientific museums, centres and institutions in 25 countries across Europe, while continuing to offer a varied programme of interest to all. The new centre will actively encourage symposiums and discussions on current scientific issues, explained by people with first-hand knowledge of them.
Family and educational activities occupy a prominent place in the Museum’s programming. Families will find a variety of scientific proposals, among which “Explore the Museum” is of particular interest. This activity has been created for children and accompanying adults and will help them discover the concepts of different disciplines, look for clues and experiment directly with a variety of fishes and objects and so on.
Continuing with its established policy of bringing science closer to school children as well as to professionals in education, the Museum offers a programme of activities expressly designed for these groups. The “Mornings at the Museum” series of talks aimed at secondary students are a fine example of this, consisting in a space for reflection and discussion of the concerns raised by students with respect to certain scientific issues. In contrast, the Science Stories Competition sets out to arouse an interest in science and scientific thinking amongst children aged from 4 to 16.
The general public will also be able to take guided tours following three itineraries for which some of the most impressive modules of the new Museum’s facilities have been chosen, providing an enjoyable way of learning and examining different disciplines in greater depth.
A huge party open to all will be held next 25 and 26 September to celebrate the opening of the new centre’s doors to the general public. A surprise show will mark the starting point of numerous fun activities and performances which will go on throughout the entire weekend