Exploration Station is a 10,000 SF museum inspired by the vision and spirit of this young institution and by the agrarian context of which it is a part. The ad-hoc collection of interconnected barn structures recalls the image of the Mid-Western farm but, through unexpected color combinations, whimsical windows, and a series of other details, it is clearly a container for play and learning. This impression is essential in order that the building be embraced by its community and identifiable to children.
The exterior building colors are red, white, and blue; bold colors that extend to the colored concrete walkway leading the way into the museum. The protruding gable, shaped like a little blue schoolhouse, signifies learning and turns into a coatroom on the inside. A yellow open-air silo that serves as the threshold provides ample room for groups to gather before entering. The color palette extends inside, with the ceiling, ducts and bathroom tile continuing this red and blue color scheme. Along the hallways, the windows, nicknamed “lucky charms” for their odd shapes, provide framed vistas. One window is purposely high, encouraging a caregiver to lift a child up to peek out into the garden and trails beyond.
Awards & Recognitions:
Top 20 Children’s Museums Award, Child Magazine, 2002.
Honorable Mention Award, Metal Architecture, 1998.
“The use of exterior metal panels afforded the architects the opportunity to use a varied and dynamic color palette in order to express this building as a unique, child-inspired project. The award recognizes a most unusual palette of materials and colors sympathetic to the design concept.”
~ Metal Architecture Editors.
Owner: Bourbonnais Park District
Architecture, Interior Architecture, & Exhibit Design: Architecture Is Fun, Inc.
Architect-of-Record: Moline Design Group
Status: Completed 1997
Photography: © Doug Snower Photography