name = At-Bristol
established = 2000
location = Canon's Wharf,
map_type = Bristol
latitude = 51.45085
longitude = -2.59861
website = [http://www.at-bristol.org.uk/ Official At-Bristol Site]
At-Bristol is a public
scienceand technology"exploration" and education centre in Bristol, England. At its opening the centre consisted of "Explore", which contains features on mechanics, sound and light, computer science, spaceand the human brain; "Wildwalk", a science centre comprising two artificial rainforests, aquariums and other ecology-related exhibits; and an IMAX theatre.
"Wildwalk" and the IMAX Theatre closed at the end of March 2007 due to a lack of funding and government support. [http://www.at-bristol.org.uk/About/closure.htm Closure of Wildwalk and IMAX, At-Bristol] ] [ cite web | url=http://www.thisisbristol.co.uk/displayNode.jsp?nodeId=144913&command=displayContent&sourceNode=200267&home=yes&more_nodeId1=144916&contentPK=16569495 | title= IMAX and Wildwalk to shut| last= | first= | accessdate=2007-02-05 | date=2007-02-05 | publisher=This Is Bristol ] "Explore" continues to operate, and by summer 2009 the "Wildwalk" building is to be converted into an aquarium by
Blue Reef Aquarium, with the IMAX cinema being used to show nature and wildlife films.
History and background
The project opened in 2000 as the successor to the "Exploratory", a large science
museumand demonstration centre in the former terminus train shedat Bristol Temple MeadsStation (now home to the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum), but moved to a city centre site as part of the regeneration of the historical Floating Harbour. The project was funded with £44.3 million from the National Lottery, Millennium Commission, South West of England Regional Development Agency, and a further £43.4 million from commercial partners (including a controversial donation from Nestlé) and Bristol City Council.
The centre is situated on the former Canon's Wharf. "Wildwalk" and the
IMAXcinema occupied a modified 19th century former lead-works building, and "Explore" occupies a 1906 railway goods shedmeasuring 540 ft by 133 ft (165 m by 41 m). The goods shed was one of the first buildings to use reinforced concreteand both buildings are Grade II listed buildings. The buildings are located around Millennium Square - also part of the regeneration - and Pero's Bridge, a footbridge across the harbour which links it to the Arnolfini art gallery, Bristol Industrial Museumand Queen Square.
The centre is popularly known as "@Bristol", due to the appearance of its logo. This features the word "at" surrounded by a partial circle, reminiscent of an
@symbol. However, the official spelling is "At-Bristol", which is how the name appears on the web site and promotional material.
"Explore-At-Bristol", or just "Explore", is a hands-on
science museum, incorporating five distinct sections:
* Move It - The first large area when entering the museum, "Move It" deals with
forces( in the exhibit "Naturally Newton") and flight("Dreams of Flight").
* Your Amazing Brain – The second large section on the ground floor, this area deals with the
human brain, in particular optical illusionsand memory.
* Curiosity Zone – Incorporating most of the upper level, this area deals with
sound, light, force, magnets, and also includes a mock television studio.
* Space – This area includes a small exhibit about space travel, and the large Planetarium, in which 4-6 demonstrations are given daily.
* Live Science Zone – An area for special events.
"Explore" is housed in a former
railway goods shed, which was renovated to house the centre. The renovations included the addition of a large glass atrium to the North of the building, and stainless-steel sphere to the south, housing the planetarium. The architect behind the renovation was Chris Wilkinson.
An interesting feature of the building is the
eutectictank, which is a convert|10|m|ft high transparent tube filled with thousands of balls containing eutecticsalts. As the temperature within the building rises, the crystals within the balls melt, taking in the heat and cooling the building. As the building cools, the salts crystallise again, giving out heat. In this way, the tank helps keep the temperature within the centre constant.
Wildwalk was an
Ecology Science centre, which contained two artificial rainforests, aquariums, hands-on exhibits, and live animal exhibits.
The centre comprised a large building (previously a lead-works building) with a ‘living rainforest’ attached to the southern side, and was designed by
Michael Hopkins& Partners.
The centre housed a large number of animals, including
butterflies, crabs, chameleons, frogs, finches, partridges, piranhas, seahorses, scorpions, snakes, spiders, tarantulas, triggerfish: in total over 150 species from all major animal groups.
The botanical house was split into two distinct sections: "Plants on Land", which traced the development of plants from simple mosses through to complex flowering plants; and "Tropical Forests", which showcased plants from tropical continents, including a
cycadwhich produced a rare, bright red cone convert|45|cm|in|abbr=on tall and convert|80|cm|in|abbr=on in circumference in 2003.
Following "Wildwalk"'s closure, all animals and plants were re-homed to other zoos and natural history venues. Additionally, some elements of the exhibits from Wildwalk have been incorporated into "Explore".
Housed in the same building as "Wildwalk", the IMAX theatre was the first of the three At-Bristol attractions to open, on 20 April 2000.
Since opening, the theatre received over 1.1 million visitors, and screened 70 films.
The longest running film, and thus that with the highest attendance figures, was Cyberworld 3D.
Closure of Wildwalk and IMAX
Since opening, At-Bristol had an annual operating deficit of around £1.5 million to be filled by fundraising. Though the charity had no problems securing short term funds and grants to cover this when the centre was set up, enabling them to run the three attractions for just over six years, by 2005/2006 most of these had either decreased greatly or ended altogether.
This left only two options: close the whole centre, or close "Wildwalk" and IMAX, enabling existing funds to be channelled exclusively to "Explore". As "Explore" was most popular with visitors, whereas "Wildwalk" and the IMAX theatre were most expensive to run, [http://www.at-bristol.org.uk/About/futurefaqs.htm At-Bristol’s Proposal to Focus on Explore from April 2007] ] it was decided that the second option was viable, and in this way "Explore" could become financially viable in the future.
For these reasons, "Wildwalk" and the IMAX theatre closed for the last time on Saturday, 31 March 2007, [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/bristol/6512691.stm BBC News – Science Centres No Longer Viable] ] making 45 people redundant. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/bristol/6331309.stm BBC News – At-Bristol Attractions to Close] ]
Regional Development Agencyis working alongside Bristol City Council to find new uses for the buildings. The University of the West of Englandhas expressed an interest in taking over the buildings to use for public outreach work with schools. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/bristol/6524877.stm BBC News – UWE Bids for Bristol Attractions] ]
In April 2008 it was announced that the Wildwalk building is to be converted into an aquarium and that the IMAX will be used to show nature and wildlife films. The £4 million plan by
Newquayfirm Blue Reef Aquarium, intends to provide a site for tropical marine and freshwater creatures by the summer of 2009.cite web |url=http://www.thisisbristol.co.uk/displayNode.jsp?nodeId=144913&command=displayContent&sourceNode=231190&home=yes&more_nodeId1=144922&contentPK=20339257 |title=Bristol Wildwalk to be turned into a massive aquarium |accessdate=2008-04-08 |format= |work=Bristol Evening Post ]
* [http://www.at-bristol.org.uk/ Official At-Bristol Site]
* [http://www.exploratory.org.uk/ The Exploratory (archive site)]
* [http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v401/n6749/full/401111e0.html#a1 Director of At-Bristol's response to a critical article in Nature] (original article is only available on pay or subscription)
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