Inside Rio’s extraordinary Museum of Tomorrow
Originally due to open well ahead of the 2014 World Cup – 2012 in fact – Rio’s Museu do Amanhã (Museum of Tomorrow) finally opened in December last year.
No longer a name bristling with irony – parallels to Stefan Zweig’s since-hackneyed phrase, ‘[Brazil…the] Country of the Future’, were too obvious to ignore – the Museum of Tomorrow has launched to great acclaim. And rightly so.
Extraordinary architecture. Extraordinary queues (avoid the weekends, or bring plenty of patience). And most significantly – an extraordinary vision and execution.
At a time when ‘crisis’ is synonymous with Brazil – be it political, economic, environmental, or (most recently) medical – it’s not merely heartening, but thrilling to see the country launch such a stellar institution, which confronts crises of the future head-on.
A museum with purpose
The content of the museum is huge in scale and yet deeply personal.
It begins by reminding us of our place in the vastness of space and time (Cosmos); followed by an environmental and cultural exploration of planet Earth, in all its majesty and fragility (Terra). We’re then hit by the news that we’ve entered a new epoch, the Anthropocene (Antropoceno), a time when man has become a geological force, the dominant influence on climate and the environment.
The question is subsequently posed: what ‘tomorrows’ do we want to build (Amanhãs)? Through our actions, and inactions, what worlds do we want to leave behind us in the future?
The exhibit ends with this epic story boiled down to its essence – a message that the future can be defined by us, right now, if we accept the invitation to coexistence (Nós).
Rather than a museum of science fiction and fantasy, Museu do Amanhã is incredibly grounded. Its message is that the future is made now – not something preordained, but shaped and owned by us here in the present.
The museum has several outstanding moments:
- The introductory film (by City of God director, Fernando Meirelles) – a sensory experience, projected 360° in an enclosed dome
- Daniel Wutzel’s ‘kinetic’ artwork Flows – a hauntingly beautiful depiction of life in flux
- The cube exploring culture – a ‘hall of mirrors’ style experience, with hundreds of photographs compelling you deeper into the room, whilst disorientating you in their numbers and complexity
- The Anthropocene film – played on huge totem-like screens which surround and impose on the audience, as if walking through the film Koyaanisqatsi (with similar, foreboding, Philip Glass style music)
- And the Churinga – an aboriginal symbolic tool for sewing together time, past, present and future; an intimate and grounded ending to the tour, which acts as a metaphor for what the museum hopes to stand for.
A museum with purpose
What makes the museum so compelling is that it manages to communicate something so powerful, without just talking about it – it lives and breathes its message.
Constructed in Rio de Janeiro’s previously derelict area of Praça Mauá, near centro, and overlooking the heavily polluted Guanabara Bay, the museum is not a mere commentator on changing the future. It is an active agent of change.
It stands for the revitalization of public space in Brazil, and with it the revitalization of thought of what the future could be. It stands, quite literally, on the shoreline of an environmental disaster, and asks us to look again, at what the future might hold – something which can all too often be forgotten when faced with the mesmerizing beauty of this Cidade Maravilhosa (marvelous city).
Ultimately, the museum succeeds because it has undeniable, unequivocal purpose. We now live in the age of ‘purpose’. ‘Brand purpose’, indeed, has become the holy grail for strategists like us here at Flamingo, seeking to bring brands – and capitalism – into the 21st Century (see my colleague, Jessica Enoch’s article for more Flamingo thinking on this).
The Museu do Amanhã is a stunning example of purpose in action. It has heart, it has vision, and walks the talk.
And like many of the great storytellers of humanity, it remind us, that no matter how grand and epic the tale might be – however long the journey – the potential for change lies in the single steps we can all take today.
- Article by Andy Connor