There is a shiny oasis in the north east corner of Paris that presents practical science for now and for all our futures. It is the largest science museum in Europe. The ‘Cite’ des Sciences et de L’Industrie’ is a showcase of modern revolution and a capacious chasm depicting life beyond our present experience. About five million people pass through the Cite’ each year.
A futuristic science museum in Paris
This museum is in the Parc de la Villette and is one of over thirty Cultural Scientific Centres in France. The gleaming structure presents science and science culture to blend in exactly with present, forward looking and futuristic life. It does not really promote the mystery of scantily understood technical excellence from past decades but slots science into modern life.
This museum came to life in 1986. The physical structure is built around what were once large steel trusses that were intended to become an abattoir sales warehouse. Construction of this was halted in 1973. The conversion planning was designed by the architect and engineer Adrien Fainsilber and Peter Rice and the museum opened to mark the passage of the space probe Giotto with Halley’s Comet.
The building is impressive to view from outside. One of the principal features is a vast bioclimatic reserve. Three greenhouse areas are constructed of steel pillars, each 32 meters high and wide. ‘Les Serres’ were the first large glass structures having no frames or additional supporting features. Visitors will find at the rear of the building the most vast, highly reflective sphere. The activity going on in the parkland that it presides over is seen in distorted mirror reflection manner around the whole circumference.
What to see in the Science Museum in Paris
The museum internally is very open and airy not unlike a contemporary aircraft hangar. There are a number of levels linked by silent elevators. The floors contain many varied exhibitions, models, videos and technical demonstrations.
At ground level, the huge solar powered aircraft, Solar Impulse 1 dominates, loaned to the museum by its Swiss creators. It is the older sibling and prototype of the current impulse 2 type that has recently circumnavigated the planet using nothing but electricity generated by the sun.
This aircraft is supported by a simulator to provide people with the chance to experience its control. Children queue for hours to take their turn.
Spread throughout the floors of the Cite’ are contemporary videos depicting scientific concepts and the universe. There are many constantly changing exhibitions that can hold the attention for hours. Every aspect of modern science is represented with the accent always on the future rather than the past.
There are many areas where young children can play, observe and explore. It is a museum about the future and what may be in store ultimately for us all, the planet and humanity and well worth a visit.
Bob Lyons is an ex-pilot turned travel writer with a penchant for all things French.