Exploration Place Science Center and Children's Museum
Project Title
Exploration Place Science Center and Children's Museum
Exploration Place is located near downtown Wichita at the convergence of the Arkansas River and its tributary, the Little Arkansas. With a mission to provide scientific and humanistic education meaningful to people of all ages, the center organizes interpenetrating elements of the river’s edge, public park, and museum.

Visitors enter through a vaulted pavilion—which holds the gift shop, cafeteria, Cyberdome, Simulation Theater, and curatorial wing—and cross a channel to the exhibition pavilion, surrounded by water and dedicated to the human experience on earth. Undulating walls and the surfaces of two giant toroids intersect to create the complex’s diverse exterior and interior geometries. The island exhibition building is generated by a toroid whose center is high in the sky, forming a series of concave roofs, facing skywards, like a giant receptor dish or observatory. The ‘and building toroid has its center deep underground, creating vaultlike roofs descending into the earth.

Radiating glue laminate beams, acting in tension in the island building and in compression in the land building, have spans as long as 56 feet and, because of their toroidal geometry, have a constant radius. The gallery interiors ascend from 16 feet at the central spine to upwards of 70 feet. Installations take advantage of these volumes, which provide for multilevel displays. The entire complex is dramatically lit at night, appearing in the city’s skyline as a floating, twisted plane reflected in the river.

Images on this page: 1 Exterior view; 2 Aerial view of site; 3 East elevation view; 4 Exterior façade; 5 Section; 6 Site and entry level plan; 7 Site conceptual sketch; 8 Early conceptual sketch; 9 Elevation sketch; 10 Early conceptual sketches

Wichita, Kansas, United States of America

between 1994 and 2000
Completion Date
Client: Exploration Place, Inc.;

Cost: US $27 million;

Size: 9,290 sq m (100,000 sq ft)

Competition: Won

Project Type
Safdie Architects
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