Bay Discovery Museum / Olson Kundig
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Text description provided by the architects. Bay Area Discovery Museum (BADM) applies the latest research in early childhood education to develop essential learning experiences that inspire and develop creative problem-solving skills in children to transform the way they learn. The museum occupies a unique site in Fort Baker within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Fort Baker, a former World War I military base, overlooks the Golden Gate Bridge, the kind of beautiful and important place that is rarely set up for children’s programs. The campus-wide masterplan and renovation developed by Olson Kundig in collaboration with Surfacedesign honors the architectural integrity of the historic site and the museum’s child-focused mission, transforming the visitor experience for each of the 350,000 annual visitors to the museum.
To reimagine the museum’s exhibits, architects and exhibit designers collaborated with early learning experts from BADM’s internal research division. Five new permanent exhibits seamlessly incorporate the latest research into interactive activities and environments. Within the museum, children and their caregivers can learn about the world around them and experience the impact of their own imagination, curiosity and innovation.
Renovated and newly introduced spaces include Tot Spot, where infants and toddlers can explore landscape-themed rooms; How Things Work, which features everyday objects cut in half to reveal their inner workings, spark curiosity and introduce the power of systems thinking; Try It Studio and Think, Make, Try® Classroom, which use fun, hands-on experiences to build on STEM learning concepts and introduce kids to digital fabrication technologies like 3D printers and vinyl cutters; Faith, a rejuvenated commercial fishing boat from nearby Bodega Bay; and Gumnut Grove, an outdoor space that offers older children the opportunity to build confidence through outdoor adventure play and age-appropriate risk-taking.
The master plan repurposes two campus buildings for updated museum programs and creates new research-supported permanent exhibits. A phased approach to planning and construction strategically positions the museum for long-term longevity and resilience.
“We know that children are not exposed to design and engineering at an early enough age. BADM’s mission to introduce STEM concepts through play and creative experiences is therefore exciting. The museum builds on this idea by creating an environment where access to this vital learning is explicitly equitable and every visitor has the opportunity to incorporate this kind of thinking into their lives – the potential where this can lead these children is limitless. . – Alan Maskin, Design Director