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Contemporary museums are forms of open education and they have to meet the growing demand for more information, more communication and thereby more activity. One of the most fascinating contributions to the designing of scientific/technological museums is the “workshop centre”. Rather than an awesome display of exhibits with “do not touch” sign boards, and technical jargon, which offer nothing in visual terms besides being a scientific encyclopaedia, the workshop concept encourages public participation through visual demonstration. The Nehru Science Centre in Mumbai, is one such workshop, which involves the visitor in a scientific experience, giving him participative role in experiments, so that he/she no longer remains a mere spectator. The centre has certain goals such as –

1.      To stimulate public awareness and interest in science and technology.

2.      To co-operate with the education system in the provision of an education facility for illustrating the cultural significance relevant, and also the limitations of science and technology.

3.      To promote the dissemination of knowledge of science and technology to all people with the co-operation of the scientific community and industry.

4.      To act as a focus for scientific activities among surrounding regions.

To sum up, the aim is to fulfil the receptivity of the mind and to create a space with variation and interest. The main object during the design is to arouse and stimulate interests of the human mind.


The Nehru Science Centre is located off E. Moses road, Worli, Mumbai. The northern and western sides of the complex are surrounded be slums making it impossible to link the structure with the planetarium on the western side. The entire complex spreads across a sloped marshy land covering about 8 acres.

The general programme requires 13 acres of reclaimed land to accommodate 15,000 sq. m. of built up space, comprising of several functions related to the museum.



1.      Exposition without walls – children’s science park with interactive exhibits of scientific phenomena, greenery and aviary.

2.      Exposition with walls – science for children, sound and hearing and sight, discovery and our heritage.

3.      Educational extension counter – mini planetarium, camp corners, creative ability centre, teachers’ training programmes, science fair, seminars, quiz, ‘I m a mother’ shows, film shows, popular lectures and many more.


The site is naturally sloping in different directions. The architect deliberately wanted to maintain and accentuate to this natural topography of the site, in the form of split-levels of modular units. The vast expanse of the metal finish with grooves gives a more definite and dramatic character to the exterior. Also the use of ventilation shafts has been commendably used to enhance the character of the building.



The entire complex has been built out with structure for functions like the reception centre, the workshops, the museum and science park. The main access road to the site bifurcates near this road. One of the bifurcations leads to the museum building bypassing the science park and acting also as a service road as it links the entrances to the temporary exhibition halls and depositories to the main access road.


Science Park

The children’s science park, the first ever in the country, was a gift to the children of Mumbai from NCSM in 1979, the international year for children. It is a science centre without walls. Large and sturdy exhibits covering various fields of science and technology are interspersed with colourful landscape to present a unique playground where education through fun is followed. The science park is spread over an area of 4 hectares of land. It has various transportation relics and scientific exhibits. The park is designed thoughtfully with natural and artificial shades and resting places. Even though the total distance from the main gate to the museum building is about 350m, the walk is not found long and tiring because of the pathway leading through a beautifully laid out science park. The park houses a sundial and a sand hour glass which are the time markers, while the birds, animals, fish, water, plants, flowers, green lawn and trees represent nature. A series of inclined planes, pulleys and gears for easing man’s efforts in doing work, turn tables to watch action and reaction, underground speaking tubes for sound transmission, water wheels, Archimedes screw, a combination of colour filters revealing a colourful landscape and many more make science more meaningful to the human mind. The objects of historical importance such as horse drawn tramcar, electric tramcar, locomotives etc. and beautifully shaped water bodies, animal cages and aviaries contribute to make the science park different then the amusement park.


Reception Counter

It is a small attractive structure placed near the parking lot, which was initially designed to receive and guide visitors to the museum. But later it was converted into an administrative area. Similar to the museum the plan is evolved from a ‘Greek cross’. The central part of the structure for the sunlight and the raised part is coupled with 4 sloping roofs for the 4 arms of the cross. The reception centre consists of area such as – 4 cabins for the directors of NSC, NCSM, technical officer and administrative officer, meeting rooms and the general office.


These are located near the entrance presently in temporary structures. There are 3 main sections – fabrication, assembly and arts.

Fabrication and Assembly Workshop – these functions are done in a small hall. It consists of various light machines like lathe machine, bund saw, sheet metal binder, bench drill etc. All the exhibits are fabricated in this section and then sent for assembling where the fitters and turners put together the fabricated material and send for painting.

Arts Workshop – this section consists of artist’s studios and cabins for staff and general area for designers and artists.

Science Museum

          It is situated on the western side of the plot and composed of blocks A, B, C and D. the sloping nature of the site has considerably influenced the design of the blocks (providing split levels in the exhibition halls). The number of window openings has to be reduced to have maximum wall surface for the exhibits. Hence artificial ventilation becomes important. Wide shafts had to be used for this purpose forming an integral part of the design.


Structural System

          As the site is reclaimed, since it was a marshy land, pile foundation had to be used. The structural system is conceived with structural supports placed at 12.0m c/c. These supports are made up of hollow 2.3mX2.15m L.C. concrete tube which functions both as structural components and conceal the air distribution system and the services. Large unobstructed spans were essential for the exhibition halls of the science centre. Therefore ribbed or waffle slab is used. The floor slab consists of 0.9mX0.9m fabricated or pre-cast R.C.C. waffle units.


          The exterior surface of the structure, for low maintenance cost, is finished with local grey stone, grit plaster with grey cement (1:1) panels created by making grooves on the grit plaster at certain intervals. The finish, although good in appearance has certain disadvantages, such as –

1.      The grooves left between the panels are not watertight and are a cause of heavy leakage during the monsoon.

2.      Rich mixture of cement has been used to cast large panels which have cracked due to expansion and contraction. Even these cracks are the cause of monsoon leakage.

3.      The grit plaster used does not hold on R.C.C. surface therefore patches of shot-crete fallen from a few places spoiling the elevation.

External Form

          The building looks interesting when viewed from all the angles. It creates a sense of curiosity and mystery in the minds of the visitors. The science museum with its immense proportions and massing does not overpower the visitor’s senses. The shot-crete used gives a rugged and stark look to the structure; vertical and horizontal grooves are introduced. The building has few windows minimising the elevational features and shafts have been skilfully used to add interest to the elevation and have served in animating the skyline.


In popular Imagination science museums, there are either recycled historical edifices with large halls, arched doorways and ordinate structures, devoid of symbolic prominence. But the design of Nehru Science Centre is far removed from this. Its design is basically modular, but the repetition of modules does not become predictable. The module is evolved through a stage-by-stage dissection process. Beginning with criss-cross modules, these are centrally dissected to form a set of ‘Ls’ abutting one another. The form further develops into a multi-directional module with central service cores and structural shafts.


The Structure

          The main access to the structure is through a flight of shallow steps with an ascending stepped bridge which opens into a spacious podium on the first floor level of block B, instead of the conventional pattern of entering the structure at ground level.

Block A

          This block houses the administrative and technical staff and the permanent office. Block A is connected to the first floor and ground floor level to block B.

Block B

          The main entrance of the museum is a three-storey structure consisting of two hexagons connected by a rectangular staircase block. Each hexagon forms a display area of 500 sq. m. The first floor of this block houses the central hall and the hall of science. As one enters the entrance hall from the open air podium one sees a massive exhibit based on the principles of conservation of energy. Behind this exhibit is the main staircase leading to the other exhibition halls. On the right hand side of the entrance is the reception along with the souvenir shop and the waiting area. On the split level 1.3m higher than the entrance hall is the ‘Fun Science’ gallery housing interesting exhibits. Halls on the second floor are devoted to ‘Light and Sight’ and ‘Sound and Hearing’ exhibits. The third floor comprises of the ‘Discovery Hall’ and the computer section. The Discovery hall is connected by a passage to ‘The Hall of Nature’ in block C. these passages connecting different blocks are in the form of fully glazed corridors. On the ground floor of block B is the cafeteria and temporary exhibition gallery. The basement houses services such as the depository, kitchen and storage for the science museum.

Block C

          It is similar to block B and comprises of various display areas such as ‘Hall of Industries’ and the ‘C.V. Raman’ hall on the ground floor. ‘Evolution’ and ‘Heritage’ on the first floor, ‘Heritage’ and Activities Hall on the second floor and the hall of Nature on the third floor.

Block D

          It houses the auditorium, library and conference hall. It has an independent access, which leads to a common entrance for both the library and the auditorium. The entrance doors are very narrow and at 45 degree angle causing great inconvenience to the visitors.


          The circulation pattern broadly falls under two basic needs – the movement of people and that of the exhibits. Visitors enter the main hall on the first floor level of the B block through a flight of steps leading from the landscaped forecourt. From the main hall they are gradually routed through the exhibition area. The circulation route directs the public to the second floor from where they ascend viewing the exhibits. Through the central staircase in block B one ascends to the Discovery Hall. From here one moves on to block C reaching the Hall of Nature. The visitor then starts to descend in this block, passing through the Hall of Industries and Heritage Hall to reach the ground floor level to the temporary exhibition halls. After exploring them, the visitor comes to the café lobby. One climbs up to the entrance hall to exit from the stepped bridge.

          Material circulation is a very important aspect of museum design, which is organised by bringing the material to be stored to the depository in the basement by a vehicular ramp. The materials used in fabrication are sent to the workshop. Material movement in the exhibition area is through a large freight lift in the central zone. Supplies to the kitchen are also routed through the basement receiving space.


          The number of exhibition halls, at various levels, is connected by staircase blocks with illuminated by skylights and other fully glazed passageways. But each exhibition hall with its massive area of 500 sq. m. coupled with a height of 4.0m projects an overwhelming effect on the young visitor. The use of minimum number of windows has given way to large display areas on the walls. This effect of a large volume is brought down by hanging colourful banners from the ceiling, though at some places it has been controlled and regulated by stepping the roof slabs. The split-levels used to maintain the natural topography of the site has helped in achieving an effect of spatial organisation and physical as well as visual division of large spaces. The colour schemes of the exhibition hall interiors consists of bright primary colours used particularly to attract children and initiate them to the use of exhibits. The colour of the ceiling is darkened so that no attention is drawn towards it.


          One of the most outstanding features of the Nehru Science Centre is the efficiency with which their services have been carried out. The toilet block is placed on the rear side in such a way that all the pipes are concealed within the shaft. The water tank has been suitably hidden between the tops of the ventilation shafts. The restrictions on the number of windows in the exhibition halls has affected cross-ventilation. Thus forced ventilation became necessary and it was preferred because the other alternative of air-conditioning the building was very expensive.

          The ventilation system is purely mechanical. The centrifugal fans blow the air in through the vent shafts and the tube-axial fans provided at the exhaust. Two blowers have been fitted at the terrace level. These blowers are actually backward curved centrifugal fans with double width and double inlet. These blowers suck the surrounding air through the R.C.C. louvers and force it down the galvanised iron duct in to the ventilation shafts. The shaft is a hollow tube measuring 2.3mX2.15m. The forced air is thrown in to each display area through an inlet at the roof level. The polluted air is thrown out from the exhibition areas through an outlet at the floor level by means of tube axial fans mounted on top of each shaft. The ventilation system has the following disadvantages –

1.      The amount of air changes facilitated by the system does not achieve comfort levels.

2.      When forced air reaches the louver level the force exerted by the blowers on the air is considerably reduced. Thus one does not feel the fast air movement, which is necessary in a humid place like Bombay.

3.      The air inlets and outlets are placed just ten feet away from each other.

4.      Loud noise and vibrations are caused by the blowers inspite of the use of glass fibre lining on the ducts.


Area Statement

Area (sq. m.)
Administrative block Entrance hall
  General staff
  Meeting room
  Technical officer
  Director's office
  Administrative office
Temporary workshop Fabrication room
  Assembly hall
  Cabins (4 nos.)
40 each
Residential accomodation Staff (6 nos.)
50 each
  Visitors (10 nos.)
12.5 each
  Ladies' dormitory
  Gents' dormitory
  Security booth (3 nos.)
10 each
  Snack counter (35 people)
  Visitors' toilets
Science museum Entrance podium
  Entrance lobby
  Ticket booth
Science hall Science for children
  Vintage car
Display halls Light and Sight
  Sound and Hearing
  Hall of Industries
  Raman's achievements
  Our Heritage I and II
  Hall of Activities I (Discovery)
  Hall of Activities II (Nature)
Auditorium Entrance hall
  Sitting for 250
  Projection room
  Stage and store
  Conference room
  Kitchenette and pantry

Total built-up area = 6291 sq. m.

Total plot area = 32,376 sq. m.

Therefore ratio = 1:5