Rochester Museum & Science Center

Designing for Blue Sky Moments
The Carlson Inquiry Center, named for the inventor of the Xerox machine, is a place where scientific inquiry and STEM-based learning unfold.

The catalyst for Chester Carlson’s moment of inspiration was his frustration with copying patents by hand. His place of inquiry was his own kitchen. This center, like Carlson’s impromptu lab, is the perfect environment for blue sky moments.

It is a room full of possibilities: a kitchen, a classroom, a garden, and an open-ended place of scientific enterprise. Its flexible furnishings and adaptable layouts are designed for multiple age users, for visiting school groups, and for teachers-in-training.

Brainstorming sessions with scientists and staff inspired the open-ended design, which turned a tired demonstration kitchen into a brightly colored place of curiosity. The sky-colored ceiling is filled with magnetic clouds covered in motivational quotes and a trellis that supports electrical equipment for easy access to glue guns, hair dryers, assorted apparatuses and curiosities. The modular carts plug directly into the forest of metal floor posts. These freewheeling carts, called Intelligence Quests (IQ’s), were designed to encourage explorations about nature, wind, water, electricity, air, and sound. IQ1, for example, contains air-moving devices, such as fans. A winged tall cart allows students to send things flying off its fold-down flight deck. By increasing the air pressure on the built-in compressor, students research aeronautics in hands-on ways, from controlling and reading the gauges to taking notes on the dry-erase wings.

Owner:  Rochester Museum & Science Center
Exhibit Design & Interpretive Programming:  
Architecture Is Fun, Inc.
Location:  Rochester/New York
  Completed 2001