The Museum of Tomorrow — Museu do Amanhã — is a splendid, assertive building designed by Santiago Calatrava. He is a remarkable architect / engineer who is responsible for some of the most imaginative, spirited, beautiful buildings of our era. You can see photos of many of his projects here. 

As part of Rio’s revitalization of its harbor, and part of Rio’s hosting of the 2016 Olympics, the city created this experimental science museum. 

We had seen the building in early morning as our cruise ship approached its pier. You can’t tell if it is a speed ship from the future in dry dock, or a hovering space ship prepared to depart. Whichever, it gleamed in the morning sun. 

One of our days in Rio was a rainy one. (This was actually no problem. The storm front dropped the daytime temperature from 100 F / 38 C to 80 F / 27 C, making it much more pleasant to explore the city.) A rainy day is perfect for a museum. 

It seems that the intention of the museum is show the visitor the context that is our world, and then present the challenges in our future. The flow and media of the exhibits try to incite the visitor to take personal action to help create the best futures possible. While the illustration of our context was full and beautiful, the presentations of future paths was much thinner. We felt that the buildup was powerful, but without resolution. Our experience is probably the perfect reflection of our global reality: The problems are immense and real, and solutions, while potentially very many, are far from clear and easy. 

Calatrava’s building is an elegant white container for a series of abstract exhibit pavilions. Every exhibit is multimedia, with bright graphics. The many kiosks are interactive; they provide layers and layers of information. The experience is like a well-designed web site. 

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The black sphere contains presentations about the cosmos and the formation of the Earth. 

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The cube of screens contains a hall that celebrates the diversity and glory of the natural world. 

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The cube of positive words includes a mirrored hall of illuminated pylons, each illustrating facets of human culture. 

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Giant monoliths look down on you, visually screaming about today’s crises, including climate change, resource depletion, and human degradation of the natural environment. 

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The last pavilion is different. It opens up, lets the light and air through, changes color, and feels organic. We decided that it tried to express possibilities and opportunities, the potential of human creativity to address our global problems. It was the opposite from the pure technological forms of the preceding pavilions. It was beautiful, but also spare of content. 

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At the end of the sequence, you can look out beneath the canopy of the building to Rio’s harbor. 

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On the way back to the entrance, you can appreciate the sweep of the architecture, and the city outside.

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