Exploration Place

Wichita, Kansas, 2000

Exploration Place is located near downtown Wichita at the confluence of the Arkansas River and its tributary, the Little Arkansas. With a mission to provide scientific education to people of all ages, the complex incorporates indoor and outdoor scientific exhibits, a theatre and educational spaces. Visitors enter through a vaulted pavilion containing the gift shop, cafeteria, CyberDome Theater and curatorial wing and then cross by bridge over the river channel to the pavilion, which is located on an island and dedicated to the human experience on earth. The building’s geometries are generated by the intersection of the undulating walls and the surfaces of two giant toroids. The ‘island’ exhibition building is generated by a toroid whose center is high in the air, forming a series of concave roofs facing skyward, like the giant receptor dishes of observatories. The ‘land’ building toroid has its center deep underground, creating vault like roofs descending into the earth. Radiating within the toroidal geometry are laminated wood beams, acting in tension in the island building and in compression in the land building, and spanning as long as 17 meters (56 feet). Because of their toroidal geometry, all the beams have a constant radius. The gallery interior ceilings ascend from 5 meters (16 feet) at the central spine to upward of 21 meters (70 feet). Installations take advantage of these volumes, which provide for multilevel displays. The entire complex is dramatically lit at night, appearing on the city’s skyline as a floating, twisted plane reflected in the river.

Project Type: Museum

Client: Exploration Place Inc.

Cost: $27 million

Size: 100000


Associate Architect - Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey and Associates

Structural/Mechanical Engineering (Design) - Arup

Structural Engineer - Dudley Williams and Associates

Mechanical/Plumbing Engineer - Manson / S&A Engineering Inc.

Electrical Engineer - Stefan Voegeli Associates

Construction - Dondlinger & Sons Construction Co., Inc

Acoustic Consultant - Acoustical Design Group

Exhibition Planner - Gyroscope

Landscape Architect - Hargreaves Associates

Graphics and Signage - Jon Roll and Associates