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  • Writer's pictureFrancisco Teles da Gama, MA

A Brief History Pavilhão do Conhecimento in Lisbon

What is the Pavilhão do Conhecimento?

The Pavilhão do Conhecimento, or Pavilion of Knowledge in English, is a family-friendly science centre located in a pavilion that was built in 1998 for the Lisbon Exposition.

Pavilhão do Conhecimento

Leon from Taipei, Taiwan, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Pavilhão do Conhecimento History

Since 1999, this Modernist structure has presented exhibitions about physics, mathematics, and technology. However, it started life with a similar name but a different focus. It was designed and used to house Lisbon’s 1998 Exposition, as a thematic exhibition centre called the Pavilhão do Conhecimento dos Mares (or Pavilion of Knowledge of the Seas). The following year, the name was shortened to the Pavilion of Knowledge, and it was reopened to the public as a centre for science. Over the years, the pavilion has hosted influential figures from Portugal and around the world, including Bill Clinton and Bill Gates, among others.

The centre allows you to explore various aspects of the physical world through its insightful exhibitions. Perhaps the most enjoyable of these is ‘Explore’, originally designed for the Exploratorium in San Francisco, that was described by physicist Frank Oppenheimer as a ‘veritable forest of natural phenomena’. The exhibition is formed of 40 interactive modules that detail the effects of lenses and prisms, how our eyes register objects, optical illusions, the role of perception, and waves and harmonics. Here you can enjoy sand dunes that are shaped by the wind and create a tornado at the push of a button.

The interactive fun and learning continues at the ‘Doing’ workshop, situated in a large, carefully designed space that lets you create, build, and share your knowledge. Most of the activities involve ‘thinking’ with your hands, while exploring electrical circuits, the creation of clothes and jewellery, and printing objects in 3D. Many of the centre’s exhibitions are family-friendly, but none more so than the ‘Unfinished House’, where children can attempt to build (or demolish) a house that’s impossible to complete.

This delightful pavilion, now part of a national network of Ciência Viva (or Live Science) centres, succeeds admirably in its mission to promote education in science and technology, in both Portugal and the wider world.

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