Envisioned as a perceptual monocle, Science Island is generated by the dual nature of vision: the faculty to see and the perception/awareness of being seen.
The overall design references a cross section of a human eye, half-sunken and halted midpoint as it grows out and extrudes from the soil. Spanning out through an interweaving matrix, programmed after the existing landscape of the island and the urban grid of the city, it adapts the architectural heritage of Kaunas and acts as endemic to Nemunas Island, while achieving a constructed space that is at once biological and synthetic. The site was chosen based on major alignments of the city, taking into consideration access points from the urban areas in order to facilitate circulation. The site, in turn, extends and gives way to the landscape project, enabling key buildings at Kaunas to be emphasized at strategic points on the island. The green rooftops of the building constitute a continuation of the park, where recreants are invited to pass through Science Island in their daily walks and runs. These interstitial open air spaces contribute to a fluid and gradual transition between landscape and building. Through sinuous and strategic footpaths, visitors are instigated to ‘rediscover’ the rich architectural heritage of Kaunas and perceive the city in a different light, creating a positive relationship between residents, visitors, and monuments.
Main hall and exhibition galleries
Science Island’s external appearance is at once fluid and tectonic. Informed by the symbolic concept of the half buried eye, emerging from the island with a vision towards the future, the design is continuous with the environment while forcing a multifaceted and dynamic extruding movement. The building components mirror this duality and continue the concept into its internal programme. The main hall is the portal into Science Island. Designed as the eye of the storm, the area is a vast open hall where the overarching themes of Nature, Human and Machine coalesce, tessellate, and fuse into powerful visual signifiers. Roughly divided into three meta-spaces, these are loosely alluded to as the lens and vitreous cavity (Nature Gallery, Temporary Exhibition Gallery, and Planetarium Dome), fovea (Main Hall), and nerve endings (Experimentorium, Research Laboratory and Human and Machine Galleries). To avoid congestion, a dynamic footbridge spans the entire length of the main hall, serving as an overhead route tailored for crowd control, crossing from one aisle to the other.
New Materials for a New World
Lumira Aerogel, nano-pore structures of silica particulate first used in aerospace technology, will be applied as thermal insulation throughout the entire surface of Science Island. The centre will possess diffused natural lighting through its Pneumatic Tensile Membrane Structure in Aerogel + ETFE, photovoltaic panels, and rainwater collection through its hydrophobic surface and underground cistern of water retention. Envisioned as a benchmark of sustainability, an ambitious system of composting and bio-digester will run throughout the building’s subterranean footprint, fully equipped to collect organic waste generated from Science Island and Žalgiris Arena and transform it into fertiliser and irrigation water for the inner gardens and external vegetation. The southern façade of Science Island takes advantage of the sun path as integrated photovoltaic panels are employed intermittently through the entire span. A strategy to maximize the harvesting of solar energy, panels capitalise on solar incidence, allowing for patterns of light to be formed subtly in internal circulation areas.
Endemic, aesthetic, sustainable
Like the twofold nub of vision, Science Island will (1) Position itself as a science eye beam from which to see, a sight that challenges and opens the world to change; and (2) Turn vision manifest, perform in its very concept design, the crux of tomorrow.
Lilian Mie Ozaki Shimohirao
Michelle Pei Ting Huang