FE_Design_Research: Notes on my visit to Cosmocaixa (Barcelona)

tona monjo tonamonjo at gmail.com
Wed May 27 14:49:05 UTC 2009

Hi all,

Yesterday I had a bit of time before a meeting, so I took the opportunity
to visit the Science Museum of Barcelona (Cosmocaixa), which is very close
to the UOC. I've visited it frequently (it's a good place to go with kids),
so I did a brief visit but this time I took some notes.

*General issues*

   - Website: http://obrasocial.lacaixa.es/centros/cosmocaixabcn_es.html.
   - This museum belongs to a private financer entity (“La Caixa”
   - European Museum of the Year 2006
   - Audio guides aren’t available. They had been in the past, but after
   some years they were eventually removed because anybody asked for them
   (surely this is related with the fact that is a very interactive museum,
   where visitors usually don’t follow a predefined path).
   - There are no wifi areas.
   - Visitors can take museum maps at reception. They can also buy a guide
   at the museum shop (5 €).
   - Visitors can become “Cosmocaixa friends” to have free access, discounts
   and updated information about museum’s activities.
   - The museum was created and has been managed from 1991 to 2005 by Jorge
   Wasgenberg. He is a good known personality, widely recognized by his task on
   the divulgation of science and his innovative museographic point of view.

*The building*

   - The museum space includes two buildings: a modernist palace and a new
   building designed in 2004. Connections between both buildings are invisible
   to visitants that can move from one to another without notice.
   - The new building is a glass based structure, with open spaces and
   specially focused on museographical criteria. Its floors are visually
   interconnected, so visitors can see what happens on each floor from the most
   of the spaces of the museum.
   - Both the building and the exhibition structure allow users to define
   their itinerary. They can use:
      - Lifts
      - A big ramp that gives users a general view of the museum
      - Some secondary ramps
      - Mechanic stairs
   - Ramps are conceived as a part of the permanent exhibition, with
   sequential information about the Earth evolution from 4500 million years.
   - The building has 5 floors.
   - Besides the building, the museum also includes two gardens: the picnic
   area and The Archimedes Gardens (with interactive devices on meteorology and
   - There is also a restaurant.


   - Cosmocaixa has a strong didactic purpose.
   - Visitors can vary depending on the day of the week:
      - Working days. Visitors are mainly:
         - Schools: children from 3 to 12 years. Guided visits conducted by
         their teachers and reinforced by museum’s staff.
         - Institutes: teens. Non-guided visits. Although teens are
         accompanied by their teachers, they use to do random walks.
         - Tourists (mainly families)
      - Weekend. Mainly local families and also some tourists.
      - Occasionally. Specialists and scientists (when there are conferences
      or congresses).
   - The museum has always many visitors, especially on holidays or
   - Some visitors spend all day long, so they lunch at the restaurant or
   the picnic area.


   - Cosmocaixa is a hands-on museum.
   - Besides the permanent collection there are always 3 or 4 temporary
   - Temporary exhibitions are located next to the permanent exhibition, so:

      - Usual visitors can easily identify new exhibitions
      - Occasional visitors can visit both temporary and permanent as a
   - Collection contents are distributed following a narrative discourse
   that can be travelled sequentially or randomly, depending on the visitor’s
   - All contents are displayed by means of two pieces:
      - An interactive artifact that allows user to experiment by himself
      the content that’s being explained.
      - A panel with textual information (always in three languages:
   - Some dashboards with questions and remarks are distributed to make
   visitors notice special details or to make them reconsider their point of
   view. The goal is to cause surprise and drive us to think about the
   “normality” of the things and phenomena that surround us.
   - The most spectacular area in the museum is the Floored
   which reproduces a tropical jungle ecosystem and visitor can walk under the
   rain, see exotic trees and 52 species of animals. The itinerary allows
   visitors to observe the jungle under the ground, under water, at water
   level, on dry land and from above.
   - Parallelism between guided navigation / random navigation and
   interactive artifact / textual information articulates two main visitors’
      - Playful: museum contents is discovered and explained by means of
      - Rational: deep and brain oriented contents are explained by means of
      textual panels.
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