Standing like the prow of a ship, Renzo Piano’s Science Exploratorium (it cannot be called a museum) projects into the harbour in a thrusting building which contains five floors of interactive and hand-on science activities for children (old and young) underneath at large piazza which rises from ground level up to the café at the top of the building, with fountains and other activities to keep children amused on a summer’s day.
Opened in 1997, it has been a great success and is now the fifth- most visited museum in the Netherlands; sitting above a road tunnel which goes under the harbour, it seems to rise out of the water.
The main activity is inside. There is a frenetic, noisy and vibrant atmosphere with young people taking part on a huge variety of scientific experiments, some apparently quite frivolous, some like the laboratory, some quite serious, all arranged around a central staircase which everyone hangs around to watch the physics demonstration on the ground floor. There is one area of historic scientific equipment, more of a museum. If there is a way of encouraging children to have a future career in science, this is the place.
The building is effectively a flexible warehouse in which exhibitions can change, while the exterior and the image continues regardless and will encourage future scientists – something the UK needs to do.