NEMO Science Center

NEMO Science Center, Amsterdam – Netherlands, Renzo Piano
Address: Oosterdok 2 1011 VX Amsterdam, Netherlands | AMSTERDAM | Netherlands
Latitude/Longitude: 52.3741, 4.91235

An immense green building is located about 15 minutes walk from Amsterdam Central Station. The fascinating construction – often compared to a ship – is located above the IJ Tunnel. This is the Netherland’s largest science centre with the illustrious name: NEMO.

NEMO means ‘no one’, but is anything but a no-man’s land. In the science centre, visitors of every age and background can make an exciting journey of discovery through the wonderful world of science and technology. When it was opened by Queen Beatrix in 1997, the big green NEMO building, which has the highest square in the Netherlands on its roof, was the first tangible evidence of the regeneration of the banks of the IJ. The building was designed by the renowned Italian architect Renzo Piano.

Building above the IJ Tunnel
Building above the IJ Tunnel has consequences. Not only does the tunnel act as the building’s foundations, during construction, the curve in the tunnel also became the curve in the building. In addition, the movement of the vehicles driving down into the tunnel – according to some it looks like the vehicles are driving into the hold of a ferry – called for a mathematical counter movement in the building. At the point that the tunnel descends, the building rises up.

A building that appears to be rising out of the water also demand the curved form of a bow. And in their turn, these curved forms demand a covering that is flexible and malleable. For this reason, copper was chosen, which also ties in with many of the buildings in the historical surroundings.

Piano made a conscious decision to build a roof terrace from which the surroundings could be admired. This was because prior to NEMO, Amsterdam was missing a ‘piazza’. In his log book, Piano came to the conclusion that Amsterdam was a one-dimensional city. In contrast to other world cities, he wrote, Amsterdam has no elevated viewpoint from which people can look out over the city. Piano changed this at the end of the last century.

Noble factory
While the exterior of the building can certainly be described as striking, Piano called the interior a ‘noble factory,’ with neutral grey walls and visible wiring and piping. The staircase has been placed in such a way as to enable optimum orientation. All attention thus remains focused on the internal function of the building: a place full of things to do and discover in the areas of science and technology with lots of interactive exhibits. Everything in NEMO invites visitors to experiment. The exhibits take centre stage, thereby fulfilling NEMO’s motto: ‘forbidden not to touch’. Visitors are drawn from one exhibit to the next. There are very few windows. A view or daylight would only distract. In NEMO, you enter a different world.

⇒ Architecture Guide to AMSTERDAM