Located at the point of confluence of the Little Arkansas and the Arkansas Rivers, Exploration Place comprises a Science and Children’s Museum across the water from downtown Wichita. Two pavilions organize the interpenetrating elements of river, park, and museum into a public place for learning, recreation, entertainment and celebration.
The museum program includes a series of outdoor exhibits and activities that will be joined to create a continuous path along the river’s western edge through the project from the city’s northern museum district to its downtown. Descending into the water, a museum agora forms an outdoor green to accommodate a variety of community activities, with a tented area for temporary exhibits set within it.
The building is organized into a wide central spine holding community rooms, auditoria and mechanical facilities, with galleries on either side formed by a series of undulating structural walls. The curve of the roof is generated by a torus geometry, in this case with its imaginary center in the sky. Across the channel, the convex curving rooftop of the “landside” pavilion forms a vault rising from the land, structured with laminated beams shaped by a torus with its center deep in the earth. The “landside” pavilion with the museum lobby, gift shops, cafeteria, Cyberdome, Simulation Theater and curatorial wing, curves along the river’s edge and connects across a channel to the “Island” pavilion of themed exhibition galleries. Surrounded by water, the galleries are dedicated to the human experience on earth.