Exploratorium wants to give exhibits a place in the sun

Exploratorium curators have unveiled their plans for a proposed new waterfront home, where they hope to craft their first-ever outside exhibits to explain science that underpins urban and natural features of The City and Bay.

Officials at the popular hands-on museum have been searching for several years for a roomier location than the home at the Palace of Fine Arts.

Port of San Francisco officials in 2006 recommended developing recreational or cultural uses for piers 15 and 17 at the end of Green Street to generate new Port revenues. Since then, Port and museum officials have been negotiating an agreement that could see the Exploratorium overhaul the piers and relocate there.

“We haven’t had an outdoor site to work with at the Exploratorium, so we’ve focused on these little mini- windows into nature and natural phenomenon,” museum exhibition manager Tom Rockwell told Port commissioners Monday. “This new site affords the opportunity … to open the windows large and take a measure of the Bay and the whole region and create the whole site as a natural observatory.”

Rockwell revealed little about the new exhibits, but he said some of them will be tested at Fort Mason next year.

Exploratorium executive director Dennis Bartels told commissioners that the Exploratorium changed the way science was taught after it opened in 1969. “Things we do at this new site will be adopted and adapted and stolen by other institutions around the world,” he said.

Under current plans, the Exploratorium would initially occupy Pier 15, an adjacent parking lot and parts of Pier 17, then it would gradually expand to take over Pier 17 in the coming years and decades, museum spokeswoman Leslie Patterson told The Examiner. She said construction might start within four years.

A report into the expected environmental impact of the proposal is expected to be finished by early next year, according to Patterson.

jupton@examiner.com

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