Discover the most futurist museum in Rio de Janeiro

Built in the municipality of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, The Museum of Tomorrow was designed and projected by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. The building is located next to the Plaza Mauá, in the port area (more precisely in Píer Mauá). Its construction was supported by the Roberto Marinho Foundation and had a total cost of 53 million euros. The building was inaugurated on December 17, 2015. The museum’s inauguration was a success and it received about 25 thousand visitors in its first weekend of operation.

The old and inactive pier turned itself into a postmodern, organic and sustainable construction that, today, is an icon of the local and cultural identity of the city of Rio de Janeiro. The institution’s purpose is to be a museum of arts and sciences, as well as warn about the dangers of climate change, environmental degradation, and social collapses. The building is eco friendly and has a roof of solar “spines” that move along the skylight, designed to adapt to changes in the environmental conditions. The main exhibition is mostly digital and focuses on ideas rather than objects. The museum works in partnerships with leading Brazilian universities and global scientific institutions and collects real-time data on climate for space agencies, the United Nations, and the Brazilian Government. The institution also has consultants from various areas, such as astronauts, social scientists and climatologists who support the scientific work of the museum.

Solar Spines — Museum Roof

As one of the anchors of the urban revitalization project Porto Maravilha, 2009, that aims to bring live back to the port districts of Rio, the museum received in 2015, as a donation before its inauguration, the sculpture Puffed Star II by the renowned American artist Frank Stella. The work consists of a twenty-pointed star and six meters of diameter, installed in the water-mirror of the museum located in front of the Bay of Guanabara.

One of the objectives of the museum’s construction was to strengthen the cultural and international identity of the city of Rio de Janeiro. The city of Cristo Redentor has always been well known for its beaches and big public events, such as carnival, but there was a need to strengthen cultural paradiplomacy. Other cities, such as London and Paris, are also well known for their cultural heritage. The Museum was presented by the municipality as an icon of the redevelopment of the port zone, and of Rio de Janeiro as a whole.

Rio’s street Carnaval 2019

The main exhibition of the Museum of Tomorrow works on the second floor of the building and was imagined by the doctor in cosmology Luiz Alberto Oliveira together with a team of consultants who worked on the conception of the collection. The section invites the visitor to go through an experience of five great narratives that go through the pavilions: Cosmos, Earth, Anthropocene, Tomorrow and Nodes. They reveal the experience of life on earth with different angles and time cuts. The main exhibit brings more than 40 different experiences in three languages: Portuguese, Spanish and English, and new pieces are received every year. From the Museum’s inauguration until July 2017, the permanent collection received 234 updates, including photos, illustrations, information and videos.

The Spanish architect and civil engineer Santiago Calatrava is responsible for the futuristic and innovative design of the museum. His work has become quite popular in the last decades. Calatrava graduated in architecture in 1974 and then moved to Zurich to complement his education by studying civil engineering, graduating in 1979 and later acquiring a doctorate in 1981. His work is considered both unique and highly influential. It is difficult to establish a profile of Calatrava’s architecture due to its complexity and heterodoxy, combining striking visual presence with solid technological knowledge.

Architect Calatrava in the construction site - Photo: Felipe Fittipaldi

Often inspired by organic forms, such as skeletons, his work has elevated the design of certain engineering works to new heights. Calatrava likes to show the movement of the forces that animate the buildings. It introduces mobile solutions and dynamic configurations, often asymmetric. Perhaps this is why he is classified as one of the most active contemporary “structurers”. He also likes to endow his achievements with organicist and surrealist connotations. It is primarily inspired by the beings of nature (anthropomorphic, harmonies and equilibria of skeletons or natural forms, pivotal joints, tendons-cables). He takes many risks in pursuit of a style that is based on nature. In his short trajectory, he has created works that are important enough to be recognized worldwide.

His most recent projects are a skyscraper in New York consisting of 12 units in the form of cubes, a cable-stayed subway bridge in Rio’s metro Line 4 in Barra da Tijuca, and the Museum of Tomorrow, mentioned here, that is totally based on a ecological design with usage of solar energy combined with complex interaction with natural light.

The project is not only beautiful, it has a more important subject such as the history of Rio de Janeiro and it brings the past into a contemporary scenario. For most of the men and women who landed in the Port of Rio de Janeiro throughout history, the future and its possibilities often seemed uncertain. And, despite the fatally unsuccessful scenario, those men and women were the ones who, to a large extent, built the city of Rio, and left behind a legacy of art, religion, science, culture, everything, in short, that human ingenuity is capable of creating.

film: Batismo de Terra by Vanessa Rodrigues

One of the greatest legacies of the revitalization of the Carioca port region is certainly the opportunity to re-evaluate this history. Today, thanks to the meticulous archaeological and historical work done on the quay and its surroundings, Rio knows more and better the trajectory of great part of its population; knows that it was the largest port of arrival of African slaves in the world; has, from there, the exact consciousness of what may represent tomorrow and its possibilities. And above all, it recognizes its creative and transforming power.

Like a ship that docks at Pera Mauá, the Museum of Tomorrow continues in this condition of those who land on the quay: think, fear, dream, project, glimpses the various possibilities of the future. And it does so from the point of view of science. It is a museum of applied science that starts from the urgency of the present and encourages reflection on the different possibilities of tomorrow. It touches upon climate change, global warming, waste and water supplies. As a consequence, it provokes actions in the present to arrive at the tomorrow we want.

Today, living in the Anthropocene Age: human action, whether individual or collective, generates impacts of geological dimensions on the planet, meaning our role and capabilities as a geological power. Under this concept the Museum of Tomorrow was built to create awareness and understand how mankind has come to where we are and what possible future we can hope for.

A travel writer from the chaos of São Paulo that moved to the sun of Santa Monica, to the Paris luxury, and now to the Philippines beaches. @ClaraPrado29