Rio’s Museum of Tomorrow was inaugurated just last week and is the centerpiece of the government’s $2 billion revitalization of the historic port district ahead of the 2016 Summer Olympics. It has drawn both high praise and controversy. It raising an interesting question:
“What sort of tomorrow do want?”
Leonardo Menezes, the museum’s content manager says it explores
“…how our choices are building different tomorrows. Are they going to be sustainable or not?”
Visitors explore human history and our impact on the earth; how we are transforming our environment in indelible ways both beautiful and destructive. It starts with a “Cosmic Portal” which acts as a “time machine.” You sit down on the floor of an egg-shaped theater to watch a film that takes you through space and time to the beginning of the universe. Directed by Brazilian director Fernando Meirelle, the 8-minute film zips through evolution… and some viewers come away from the experience teary-eyed. Menezes says the idea is to show that
“we are connected to all other beings, plants and animals that are living here with us.”
The museum was designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, who also designed the new $4 billion Fulton Street Transit Hub at The World Trade Center in NY. The message of environmental responsibility is embedded in its design. Calatrava said he was inspired by a visit to Rio’s botanical gardens when he came up with the concept. The building has solar panels that move with the angle of the sun and it uses 40% less energy than conventional buildings.
But no matter how earnest the curators intentions, critics have still charged that the museum does little to address any of the specific environmental issues Brazil faces, like deforestation in the Amazon or pollution in the bay on which the Museum sits. They say that a project like this museum is just the latest chapter in a saga of inequality.
Museums often embody the grand aspirations of a city — or at least those of its planners, says American architect Michael Lipkin. But more often it’s the community that surrounds a landmark that defines its fate.
“It’s important to remember that the Sydney opera house, which has become so iconic of what Sydney is, was not well-received. The Guggenheim museum in New York, perhaps [the city’s] most iconic mid-century building was rejected by most of the press and the neighbors…. we are going to have to wait until the day after tomorrow to understand what it really means.”
The early indications are that Rio’s latest attraction could win the community over. Thousands have been flocking to the area around the museum during the holiday season, and the local paper hailed it as “the new beach of Rio” — which is practically THE highest praise in Brazil. It certainly LOOKS amazing –it makes me want to go to Brazil!