Science Alive! moving into CBD

SEE THROUGH: Science Alive chief executive Neville Petries with a body scanner display.
SEE THROUGH: Science Alive chief executive Neville Petries with a body scanner display.

Science Alive! will move to the inner city with the aim of becoming an "innovative tourism attraction".

Chief executive Neville Petrie said the not-for-profit organisation would sell its former site at Moorhouse Ave and rebuild in a to-be-confirmed central city site.

New features would include an earthquake gallery using 3D technology, a planetarium and flying suits.

"We've been approached by Cera (Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority) and CCDU (Christchurch Central Development Unit) to relocate in the centre of town," Petrie said. "We want to appeal to a broad demographic with a number of galleries so we can focus on the tourism component.

"We will be looking to put our old site on the market soon.

"All we need is someone in the Government to . . . say ‘you're going there'. After that we're looking at an 18 month process to get open."

Petrie said that prior to the 2011 earthquake, 6 per cent of its visitors were international, 30 per cent were from outside of Christchurch and the remainder were local residents.

The centre would continue to offer science programmes to locals but "spread the net wider".

"We have extensive plans for new exhibits and a $4 million budget. In the earthquake gallery we are looking at creating a physical and emotional earthquake experience."

Working with the University of Canterbury's research institute, HITLab, the September 2010 earthquake will be replicated. "We will have the same seismic register for 43 seconds. We'll take people in and give people the real experience of what we encountered. As visitors stand there, buildings start falling down around them.

"There will be aftershocks going on underneath the visitors the whole time."

The science behind the city's rebuild will also inform the programme. Most of the displays were salvaged from the former building and centre staff have been based in Sydenham post-quake.

Head of programmes at the centre, Charlotte Verity, said it had been frustrating trying to let residents know the centre was still actively offering programmes.

"Despite the demolition of Science Alive's science centre, staff have continued to run the Under-5 Festival. They restructured the school programme so educators went out to schools and we offer a range of community programmes."

Science Alive's first Under 5 Fest ended a day before the February 2011 earthquake. This year's festival, which offers 40 hands-on science exhibits, runs until Thursday at the Table Tennis Stadium Canterbury.


Quake simulator: The University of Canterbury's research institute, HITLab, will build a 3D environment inside the new centre. The September 2010 earthquake will be replicated and people will tell their stories using holographic effects, falling buildings. The exhibit includes aftershocks.

Mind ball: Find your happy place and guide the ball to its destination using just your mind and your ability to relax. Don't get stressed – the ball will stop and morph into a disfigured blob. Science Alive has been taking the Mind Ball to schools in the eastern suburbs and helping children find their inner peace.

Flying visit: The rooftop cafe of the new Science Alive centre will offer the unique view of people in flight suits floating on air below.

Innovative Kiwis: Local innovators and businesses, including the Yike Bike and Hamilton Jet, will tell the stories behind their unique inventions.

Seeing stars: The new Science Alive centre will include a planetarium. 

The Press