Every museum has a store, that’s a given. But not every museum devotes its retail space to exhibits. The Exploratorium at Pier 15 has a store that’s just like the iconic San Francisco museum conceptually, architecturally, and in its product offerings.
Working with Napa Valley based Shopworks Design, the Exploratorium Retail Development team opened two integrated Store spaces evocative of the authentic laboratory feel that has always characterized the Exploratorium. The main store, at 2,800 square feet, faces on the Embarcadero and is open to pedestrian traffic from the street or from inside the historic Pier 15 bulkhead. Another smaller store, at 1,000 square feet, is located inside, deeper in the heart of the Exploratorium.
The Exploratorium’s exhibit workshop, where all of the exhibits are developed, built, and tested, inspired the new store design. In fact, the exhibits have been built into the Store – a place for visitors to continue to play, observe and discover while they shop. Look for a large interactive triple vortex exhibit right in the middle of the main store, or the classic illusions Vases Or Faces, Mirror Maze, and Color Words (where the dissonance between saying a color word like blue and the competing actual color of the word in red can cause cognitive problems in six languages).
One engineering and design marvel is Scrapple, a store fixture by artist Golan Levin that actually converts from a wooden product market cart into a popular interactive sound piece. The main Store also features an Art-O-Mat – a vending machine that disgorges original art works for $5 a pop.
Merchandise fixtures are made of wood and metal. They were conceived to be flexible both in terms of the types of products they house and their ability to move around the museum to support special programs such as book signings and outdoor science festivals. That rough-and-ready functional feel carries through in the standard book carts, nail bins, architectural hanging files and vise tables that are all used to display merchandise. Concrete floors, simple lighting and natural materials also extend the workshop experience into the Store.
The Exploratorium’s stores at Pier 15 continue to carry items for adults and children that reflect the exhibits of the museum, from unusual objects to games, kits, and books of scientific, artistic and technological interest.