Vancouver’s largest museum, Science World, is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its landmark home at the eastern end of False Creek.
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The 155-ft-tall geodesic dome with 766 triangles (aka Vancouver’s giant golf ball), was originally completed in 1985 as the Expo Centre — the centrepiece of the Expo ’86 World’s Fair.
But it was not until May 6, 1989, that the building became the new home of Science World, originally named as the Arts, Sciences & Technology Centre.
A year after the World’s Fair ended, all three levels of government announced the Expo Centre would become one of the few enduring legacy buildings of Expo ’86 by becoming Science World, with an announcement by Queen Elizabeth II declaring the building “for the people of British Columbia.”
Between 1987 and 1989, the building underwent a $19-million renovation and expansion that redesigned the interior, created new exhibits, and expanded the footprint with new exhibition space and a new main entrance, replacing the original Expo Centre grand staircase.
It also included a retrofit of the dome’s theatre into the largest OMNIMAX dome screen in the world — a 27-metre long and five-storey high screen with a seating capacity for 400 people.
The original architect for the Expo Centre was Bruno Freschi, while the architect for the first post-Expo additions to transform the building into Science World was Boak Alexander. The structure hovers over the waters of False Creek — built on a foundation of reinforced steel in a cement slab, supported by 182 pilings.
Science World’s building was formally renamed as the TELUS World of Science in 2005, as part of a long-running $9-million corporate naming rights agreement with TELUS.
In 2011, Science World fully reopened following a comprehensive $35-million upgrade that renovated the facility and significantly expanded its indoor floor area from 110,000-sq-ft to 140,000-sq-ft. Its dome spikes gained a new lighting system with 391 LEDs, which are now synchronized at nighttime to create special shapes and mark special occasions and holidays.
In addition to the building improvements, a $7.5-million outdoor science exhibit was constructed on the east side of the building, next to the new building entrance.
One of Science World’s most notable temporary exhibitions was the first showing of Bodyworlds between mid-2006 and early-2007, which was so popular that it even led to around-the-clock opening hours during the final few days of the exhibition.
There was a short-lasting blip in Science World’s operations as a science museum during the 2010 Winter Olympics, when its building was leased to the Sochi 2014 Winter Games local organizing committee for the use as Russia House. All of the building’s science exhibits were temporarily relocated off-site, and the interior was completely transformed into a free public showcase of the next Winter Games.
Science World also saw a visit from Stephen Hawking in 1993, when the acclaimed physicist spoke to 500 local students with disabilities.
In 2018, Science World recorded an attendance record of over one million visitors — a 20% increase in visitors compared to the previous year.
The non-profit organization will be kicking off its ’30 Years of Wonder’ anniversary celebrations of its home on May 6, 2019.