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By Georgia Grimond, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – For five years a new museum has been planned in Rio’s Porto Maravilha area in the city’s centre. On December 17th, the mayor, Eduardo Paes, will officially open the Museu do Amanhã, or the Museum of Tomorrow, a contemporary science museum. The public opening will happen on Saturday, December 19th.

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Santiago Calatrava designed a new building to house Rio’s new contemporary science museum, photo courtesy of the Museu do Amanhã.

With in approximately 5,000 square meters of exhibition space, the museum is dedicated to science and technology encompassing aspects of philosophy, politics and ethics.

It poses five questions which visitors are encouraged to answer as they journey from one end to the other. They are: “Where do we come from?”, “Who are we?”, “Where are we?”, “Where are we going?” and “How do we want to live together over the next fifty years?”

Award-winning Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava was asked to design a building to house the content. The result is bold and futuristic. All white, with moving wing-like structures and a thrusting canopy over Praça Mauá, it was conceived to be an iconic symbol of a new Rio and to mark the port area’s redevelopment.

“As an engineering work and work of architecture, it is one of the examples that we wish of tomorrow that is represented in this work,” said Jorge Arraes, Secretary of Concessions and PPs in Rio.

The Porto Maravilha, which is close to five million square meters in size, was once a no-go area. Recently it has undergone radical transformation, with developments such as the Museum of Art of Rio (MAR) which opened in 2013, a number of residential and commercial real-estate projects and the pedestrianization of the square itself. Transport, street-lighting and public services, such as trash collection, have all been improved and a total of fifteen thousands trees will be planted there.

On a pier reaching out to sea the Museu do Amanhã is long and narrow, reaching a maximum height of eighteen meters. It sits of a pier that was built to receive the Queen Elizabeth II cruise ship in the Fifties. However, the jetty was taken out of operation because it had started to move with the sea currents.

Now secured, it provides ample space around the museum for public gardens and spaces, and the entrance to the museum is reminiscent of a cruise ship. Inside, the main exhibition lives on the second floor, taking visitors from one end of the museum to the other, finishing with panoramic views of Guanabara Bay, the Rio-Niteroi bridge and the hills in the distance.

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The Museu do Amanhã is part of the greater redevelopment of Rio’s port area, photo by Cesar Barreto/Museu do Amanhã.

On the outside the building’s fin-like extensions are lined with solar panels and move with the sun to absorb its energy. They generate fourteen percent of the museum’s electricity.

Rainwater is collected on the roof for the plumbing and a sophisticated system cools the building by pulling cold water from the bottom of Guanabara Bay, pumping it through the air-conditioning system, into the reflecting pool at the back of the building before returning it to the sea cleaner than when it was taken.

The development opens up a swathe of the bay’s shore that was previously inaccessible to the public. Soon a footpath between the aquarium to the north of Praça Mauá and Aterro do Flamengo in the south will trace the coast allowing people to walk between the two points.

From many spots inside the building visitors can see landmarks in Centro, such as the Mosteiro de São Bento do Rio de Janeiro (Sao Bento monastery). From 10AM on Saturday December 19th, the Museu do Amanhã is open to all. There will live music and other attractions in Praça Mauá from 1PM until late at night.

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