National Children’s Science Centre due to open in 2018

Planetarium is centrepiece of multimillion-euro plan for ‘Exploration Station’

A large planetarium forms the centrepiece of a multimillion-euro plan to build a world-class interactive science centre in Dublin.

The Office of Public Works on Wednesday morning is publishing a planning application for the huge development, which will be in the old north wing of the National Concert Hall.

The development would open up Iveagh Gardens and add to the front elevation of the concert hall that faces on to Earlsfort Terrace.

The former real tennis court building close to the concert hall's north wing would be used for temporary and visiting exhibitors, with a tunnel connecting it to the science centre.


The National Children's Science Centre is due to open in late 2018 and will also be known as the Exploration Station, said Dr Danny O'Hare, founding president of Dublin City University and chairman of the Exploration Station board since 2006.

Refurbishment costs

All costs related to the State-owned north wing building and its refurbishment are being covered by the State via the OPW.

It identified the north wing as suited to redevelopment as a science centre and will organise all of the reinstatement of the building, said State architect Ciarán O’Connor.

He said fitting out the planetarium with its 15m dome and installing 200 purpose- built interactive exhibits would cost an additional €13 million.

He said the centre expected to raise this funding through philanthropic donations, foundations and corporations, and possibly through strategic partnerships. Efforts to win this funding will begin now the planning application has been submitted.

The centre is designed to appeal to children aged four to 16 years, although such centres attract people of all ages.

“This will be very strongly welcomed and it supports ongoing efforts to encourage more young people to study Stem [science, technology, engineering maths] subjects,” said Prof Brian MacCraith, president of Dublin City University.

He chairs a committee due to report shortly on ways to encourage Stem.

“I am absolutely delighted,” said Dr Sheila Gilheany, an adviser to the Institute of Physics in Ireland, who was commissioned to look at planetariums for the site and exhibitions that might form part of the centre.

Dick Ahlstrom

Dick Ahlstrom

Dick Ahlstrom, a contributor to The Irish Times, is the newspaper's former Science Editor.