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Exploratorium building new space along waterfront

August 2, 2011 7:58:42 PM PDT
Where do you go to watch an eclipse, play with a laser or see a yo-yo grand master? For more than 40 years the answer has been the Exploratorium at the Palace of Fine Arts near the Golden Gate Bridge. But the Exploratorium is moving to a couple of dilapidated piers that will soon be a city showplace.

Piers 15 and 17 are just north of the Ferry Building on San Francisco's Embarcadero.

"This location gives us the opportunity to really do new kinds of exhibits, exhibits about the environment, the bay, exhibits about the outdoors we really can't do in our current location," Executive Associate Director Rod Semper said.

The pier buildings are big barn-like structures that stretch 800-feet over the bay. Pier 15 will be developed first -- recreated as a state of the art science museum with exhibits that can grow and change over time.

But that's just the start; part of the Exploratorium's gift to the city is to provide roughly two acres of civic space for the public to just come and enjoy the area, and to that end they are expanding the deck as sort of an outdoor recreation area for the public. Visitors will be able to enjoy a magnificent view of the bay, an exciting prospect in part because the new area will be close to the start and finish lines for the upcoming Americas Cup.

The front of the buildings will keep their same historic look, but under the piers a major overhaul for earthquake safety in underway.

First, divers inspected the pilings that were already there. Next, old pilings were repaired and then giant new piling, up to 160 feet long, were driven into the bay mud using a vibrating process.

When it's finished, the Exploratorium will have three times the exhibit space it does now -- three times the space to amaze and educate.

The project is expected to cost about $300 million. The non-profit Exploratorium is still working to raise all the money. In the meantime, their old building is still open and full of lots of cool exhibits.

Written and produced by Jennifer Olney


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