Heureka (science center)
Heureka is a Finnish science center in Vantaa, Finland, north of Helsinki, designed by Heikkinen – Komonen Architects. The aim of the science centre, which opened its doors to the public in 1989, is to popularize scientific information and to develop the methods used to teach science and scientific concepts. The name ‘Heureka’ (eureka in English) refers to the Greek exclamation, presumably uttered by Archimedes, to mean “I’ve found it!” (made a discovery). The Science Centre Heureka features both indoor and outdoor interactive exhibitions with exhibits that enable visitors to independently test different concepts and ideas. There is also a digital planetarium with 135 seats.
The Heureka Science Centre is a non-profit organization run by the Finnish Science Centre Foundation. The Finnish Science Centre Foundation is a broadly based co-operation organisation that includes the Finnish scientific community, education sector, trade and industry, and national and local government. The ten background organisations of the Foundation support, develop and actively participate in the activities of Heureka. The foundation’s highest body is the Board of Trustees, whose decisions are implemented by the Governing Board. Everyday activities are the responsibility of Heureka’s Director assisted by a management team and other staff. The Director of the Finnish Science Centre Heureka is Professor Per-Edvin Persson.
The roots of the Finnish Science Centre Heureka can be traced back to the University of Helsinki and scientists, who had become acquainted with different science centres located around the world. The initial spark was lit by Adjunct Professors Tapio Markkanen, Hannu I. Miettinen and Heikki Oja. It all began with the Physics 82 exhibition held at the House of the Estates in Helsinki on 20–26 May 1982. During autumn of that same year, the science centre project was launched with the initial support of the Academy of Finland, the Ministry of Education, and various foundations. The project led to the establishment of the Finnish Science Centre Foundation during 1983-1984. The original founding members of the foundation included the University of Helsinki, the Helsinki University of Technology, the Federation of Finnish Learned Societies, and the Confederation of Industries.
In 1984, the City of Vantaa offered to be the host city and partial financier for the Science Centre, and also designated a property lot located in the southern end of Tikkurila as the future site of the centre. An architectural competition, held in 1985, turned out two first prizes from which the winning design was selected; namely the “Heureka” design submitted by Mikko Heikkinen, Markku Komonen and Lauri Anttila. That's how the Finnish Science Centre Heureka got its apt name! Before the building was completed, a number of test exhibitions were set up at other sites. The interior plan for the Science Centre was completed in 1986. The foundation for the building was laid in October 1987, and the construction work was completed one year later. The overall area of the building is 8,200 m2, of which 2,800 m2 is exhibition space. The Finnish Science Centre Heureka opened its doors to the public on 28 April 1989.
Exhibitions and planetarium
Interior of the building
The main exhibition hall houses about 200 exhibits related to different fields of science. The main exhibition was renewed completely in 1999, but there are small changes taking place in the main exhibition hall each year as well. The topics include, for example, digestion and the functions of the intestines, the production of money and traffic. The exhibition ‘The Wind in the Bowels’ has been designed in co-operation with the Finnish Medical Society Duodecim. The exhibition ‘About a Coin’ was implemented through collaboration with the Mint of Finland to mark the company’s 150th anniversary.
As an extension of the main exhibition, the Heureka Classics exhibition was opened in 2009 in honour of Heureka’s 20th anniversary. From the beginning of August 2009, Heureka has also had the Science on a Sphere exhibit on display.
In addition to the main exhibition, Heureka generally also houses two temporary exhibitions. The topics of past temporary exhibitions have included, for example, dinosaurs, humans, sports, forests, the art of film, flying and ancient cultures. Since Heureka’s opening, the most successful exhibitions have been the dinosaur exhibitions. The 2001 exhibition about the family life of dinosaurs, for example, attracted 406,000 visitors. Many of the exhibitions independently produced by Heureka have made guest appearances in numerous science centres all over the world. Heureka also features exhibitions imported from abroad.
Heureka’s outdoor exhibition area, Science Park Galilei, opened in 2002. This area of the centre can be visited annually during the summer season. Galilei is a sort of “scientific playground”. The 7,500 m2 area holds dozens of exhibits, many of which feature water as the primary element. The exhibits are based on mathematical, physical and musical phenomena. The outdoor park also contains moving works of art, such as the sand plotter created by well-known Finnish artist Osmo Valtonen. Galilei also features an arboretum with species of conifers from the northern hemisphere.
The area in front of Heureka features a permanent bedrock exhibition, which contains both common and rare types of rocks found in Finland’s bedrock. The rocks are situated to reflect their distribution throughout different geographical provinces of Finland. Leading up to the front entrance, visitors are also greeted by perennial gardens that were planted in accordance with the historical classification system designed by Carolus Linnaeus. The front of the entrance is tiled in Penrose tiling.
The hemispheric-shaped planetarium primarily presents films dealing with astronomy. Until 2007, the theatre was called the Verne Theatre, and it ran super films and multimedia programmes made with special slide projectors that took advantage of the entire 500 m2 surface of the hemispheric screen. At the end of 2007, the theatre was entirely renovated, and reopened on 26 December 2007 as one of Europe’s most modern digital planetariums. There are altogether 135 seats in Heureka’s planetarium.
Other daily programmes
In addition to the exhibitions and planetarium films, Heureka also offers the opportunity to view daily science theatre shows, to participate in supervised programmes and to watch Rat Basketball games. Furthermore, a number of other individual events, such as Science Days, science holidays and science camps in the summer are organised at Heureka. Public lectures with different themes are also regularly held in Heureka’s auditorium. Public lectures are given in the planetarium as well. Other services at Heureka include a science shop and a restaurant, as well as conference facilities and a 220-seat auditorium for meetings.
Facts about Heureka
From 1989 to 2011, an average of about 280,000 people has visited Heureka each year. The total number of visitors exceeded six million in May 2010. Altogether more than 22 million people have viewed Heureka’s exhibitions on display both in Finland and abroad. Of the average 280,000 people who visit Heureka each year, more than half represent families, one fourth school students, about 10% are corporate visits, and the rest are individual visitors. About 6-10% of the visitors arrive from abroad, with the highest percentage coming from Russia and Estonia. The number of visitors is affected by, for example, the general economic situation, the weather and the excursion funds available to school groups.
The Finnish Science Centre Foundation and funding
Heureka is run by the Finnish Science Centre Foundation, whose original members include the University of Helsinki, the Helsinki University of Technology (nowadays Aalto University), the Federation of Finnish Learned Societies, and the Confederation of Industries (nowadays Confederation of Finnish Industries, EK), the City of Vantaa, the Ministry of Education (nowadays Ministry of Education and Culture), the Ministry of Trade and Industry (nowadays Ministry of Employment and the Economy), the Ministry of Finance, the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK), and the Trade Union of Education in Finland (OAJ).
Heureka’s funding is provided through subsidies from the City of Vantaa and the Ministry of Education and Culture, as well as through its own operational revenue: admission and rental fees, fundraising and exhibition export. Heureka’s overall funding is approximately nine million euro, of which the revenue from own operations was 48% in 2011. The share of the funding provided by the City of Vantaa and the Ministry of Education and Culture was altogether 52% in 2011. The public support is notably less than for many other cultural institutions. Part of the funding also comes through corporate co-operation. The temporary exhibitions are often sponsored by main partners and other partners. Heureka also has two companies owned entirely by the Foundation, namely the Science Shop Magneetti Oy, which runs the Heureka Shop at Heureka and at the Kamppi Shopping Centre in central Helsinki, and Heureka Overseas Productions Oy Ltd, which manages the export activities of Heureka.
At the end of 2011, the Foundation had a staff of 66 salaried employees and 40 part-time or fixed-term employees. The total number of person-years was 83. An additional 4.5 person-years were carried out by volunteers. There have been volunteers in Heureka since 1998, and there are currently about 60-70 volunteers in the service of Heureka.
The center is a member of three associations of science centers:
- ASTC (Association of Science-Technology Centers)
- ECSITE (The European Collaborative for Science, Industry and Technology)
- NSCF (Nordisk Science Centerförbundet)
- Douglas E. Graf, "Heureka: Formal Analysis", Datutop 18, Tampere, 1996.