STEM-Inspired Center to Inspire Next Generation and Revitalize Omaha Riverfront
The Discovery Center is an innovative community space and learning environment that is part workshop, part museum. It’s a place for hands-on experiences in science, math, engineering and technology for middle school groups and children ages 6 and up. The interior space is designed to be warm and inviting to suggest that science is friendly, familiar and approachable. The interior walls are constructed with custom milled 4 foot by 8 foot sheets of plywood that act as “pegboard” for interactivity and modularity.
The building is thought of as a “container” like the classic Nebraska vernacular “machine-shed,” simple, honest, performative — where apertures in the aluminum exterior envelope strictly adhere to optimal shading based on the orientation of the façade. The building geometry emerged out of an apparent “grain” to the landscape that organizes the building into two forms. On the west, towards Downtown Omaha, it “lifts” off the ground, which creates an elevated “canvas” into the air and acts as a billboard to the city. The space under the cantilever then becomes a pedestrian space — a large bus stop for group collection and lingering. The east form along the river anchors into the site along the riverfront boardwalk. The vertical shading fins along the east provide exciting glimpses into the interior, thus animating the façade experience as pedestrians meander the riverwalk.
The new privately-funded, community-backed science center aims to become a family-friendly destination when it opens in 2023. It will not only serve a critical need in Omaha’s cultural amenities, it will help inspire children’s interest in STEM.