THE PROJECT Located in San Francisco, the Exploratorium is an interactive museum of science, art and human perception that opened in 1969 at the Palace of Fine Arts—a monumental structure built in 1915, which remained the museum’s home until January 2013. In addition to acting as a hands-on learning center, the Exploratorium is engaged in teacher training, art and science workshops for adults and science education reform.
THE CHALLENGE Designing brand-new offices for Exploratorium staff presented an opportunity to provide staff—400-plus scientists, artists, educators, exhibit developers, designers and writers—with a much more effective work setting. At the same time, the move from a warren of cluttered, but familiar, rooms to an open, light-filled space outfitted with contemporary office furniture presented challenges. The new space would also be a new reality requiring personal adjustment, as a majority of staff members had a long tenure at the Exploratorium and in the Palace of Fine Arts building.
Was anyone who cared about the old Exploratorium nervous about what might be lost? After all, the museum and its exhibits are known for being eccentrically original and even "funky." And scientists, artists and exhibit developers tend to tinker with a lot of "stuff." While the staff looked forward to living under one roof in a congenial collaborative environment with amenities like natural light, fresh air and views, anxiety naturally arises when an organization is in flux.
THE RESPONSE Working closely with architect EHDD, dealer Vanguard Concept Offices and the Exploratorium project team, Teknion supplied furniture throughout the museum’s new offices. Planning, design and the selection of furniture products was a thoughtful process that included a lively exchange of ideas with many members of the Exploratorium staff.
The project team felt it was important to engage members of the Exploratorium staff in dialog and to solicit and respond to staff input in order to alleviate the sense that change was being imposed and to offer reassurance that the new workspace would support the unique culture and diverse activities of staff members.
Design of the Exploratorium offices provides for a variety of open workstations and shared spaces that support work-mode choices. Teknion dna, a collection of modular soft seating and tables, was selected to provide flexible arrangements of comfortable seating for casual meetings or people taking a break from their desk. Workstations were created using low-height District components, as well as Marketplace worktables, to maintain a sense of openness. Private rooms, constructed using Altos walls, were inserted into the space to provide a quiet place to make calls or have a confidential conversation.
Tailoring the design strategy to the Exploratorium’s unique needs, additional Teknion products selected included Projek task chairs, Nami stacking chairs, Vignette lounge seating, Expansion Training Tables, Conflux task lighting and Teknion filing and storage components, as well as a variety of tables. The clean, contemporary aesthetic, along with the “green” qualities of Teknion products were deciding factors as the Exploratorium received LEED Platinum certification and became the largest museum to operate at net-zero energy costs. A warm, welcoming environment for an imaginative and highly creative group, Exploratorium staff hasembraced the new work setting and begun to make it their own.