In Rio de Janeiro, the Museu do Amanhã (Museum of Tomorrow) has opened just in time to become, perhaps, the most incredible new museum of 2015. Designed by Santiago Calatrava, the Museu do Amanhã is the showpiece of a redeveloped cultural district.
In 2009, Rio launched the Porto Maravilha (Marvelous Port) project to redevelop the waterfront district north of downtown. An elevated highway was replaced with a promenade, historic buildings were restored, and the Museu de Arte do Rio (MAR) opened in 2013. The Museu do Amanhã is the most visible feature of Porto Maravilha but has a larger significance for Brazil, and the world, beyond the port.
The Museu do Amanhã is an astonishing landmark. It appears to float on water, surrounded by reflecting pools and by Guanabara Bay. The soaring trussed roof cantilevers over public plazas, extending past the building by 45 meters on one side and 75 meters on the other, with a maximum height of 18 meters above the city-facing public plaza.
The museum is massive but efficient, using 40 percent less energy than typical buildings. The roof functions as a brise-soleil with movable photovoltaic panels that provide solar energy, and water from the bay is used for the cooling systems and to fill the reflecting pools outside.
These sustainable design features align with the museum’s exhibitions, which consider the origins of our planet and it’s possible futures, addressing climate change, population growth, consumption, and biodiversity. A film explicates billions of years of Earth’s history, an interactive allows visitors to calculate their own environmental impacts, and video screens stream real-time figures of consumption and films of environmental disasters. The narrative is (literally, in three languages), “We have lived on earth for 200,000 years. Since 1950 we have modified the planet more than in our whole existence. We are more. We consume more. More. More. More.”
The museum’s architect, Santiago Calatrava, is well-known for bridges and railway stations, and his neofuturist style has been applied to civic projects including the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències in Valencia, Spain. In Rio de Janeiro, the design and function of the Museu do Amanhã may draw comparison to Oscar Niemeyer’s futurist buildings in Brasilia, which attempted utopian ideals with architecture and city planning. 500 miles away and fifty years later, the redevelopment of the Porto Maravilha is a relatively smaller project, but the content of the Museu do Amanhã has a much larger focus.
The $54 million Museu do Amanhã project was funded the City of Rio de Janeiro and the government of Brazil, as well as the Roberto Marinho Foundation, Banco Santander, and BG Group.