At Pass – short for Parc d’aventures scientifiques or Scientific Adventure Parc – near the Belgian city of Mons, it’s all about the excitement of science and technology. Not to forget stunning architecture.
The former coal mine of Frameries, where Pass is located, must have been a spectacular sight in the 19th and early 20th century. After the glorious days of coal mining were over, it stood empty for quite some time. Enter French architect Jean Nouvel. What the man did with the protected site in the Borinage region, is rather baffling. By remodeling it, he gave rise to a whole new world where coal was replaced by science, technology and curiosity.
The Pass raises questions and tries to answer them. But more importantly, visitors are invited to investigate and think for themselves. To look, listen, touch, experiment, dream and play. Sounds like a plan, no?
Art as a vegetable
‘What is Pass anyway?’, Felix asks. He looks slightly worried. ‘Is it a museum? Cause you know I’m not a fan of art’, our eleven year old says. He sees art as the vegetable of culture: if necessary he ‘s willing to eat it, but a sandwich with chocolate spread tastes better. ‘No’, we try to comfort him, ‘it ‘s not a museum.’ So what is it then? Let’s find out.
As soon as we enter the Pass’erelle, we ‘re surrounded by tinkling sounds and moving images that feature a red dot. The kids start to smile: this smells like action and excitement. The Pass’erelle is a 210 m long automatic treadmill and follows the trajectory of the coal carts between the sorting and washing area of the coal. It brings us right in the heart of the Pass, where there ‘s something for every age, ranging from two to seventy.
The route of the sandwich
In the exposition ‘My body, my health’ we’re confronted with the hard facts of our physical package. The numbers are clear: 100.000 billion cells, 100 organs, 950 km of tubes, 570 skeletal muscles, all in one body. ‘We are an exceptional mechanism’, Lucy (9) reads. She’s fascinated by the route a sandwich – possibly with chocolate spread – travels in our insides.
Next to her Felix is trying to rearrange the bones of a human chest and vertebral column. Not so easy, looking at the chaos in front of him. Luckily the owner of these bones doesn’t need his parts urgently.
Butterflies in your belly
We learn that the digestive tract is considered our second brain. Apparently it contains as many neurons as the spinal cord. Together they form the nervous system of our intestine, closely connected to our actual brain. That explains why we get stomach cramps when in reality we have performance anxiety. Or butterflies in our tummy when we are in love.
In a window display we discover the heart of a human, next to that of a horse (bigger) and an elephant (much bigger). We look at all those hearts in awe. ‘What happens to his heart when an elephant is in love?’ Lucy wonders.
In the exposition about genetics, we learn all about the human genome, synthetical medicine and cloning. Dolly the sheep was the first mammal cloned from an adult somatic cell, using the process of nuclear transfer. She was born in 1996. The Dolly in this expo looks rather smitten with her neighbor, the Yeti. Who knows what kind of unusual love story is in the making here…
Soap nuts and shower heads
The adventure continues outside. In the 28-hectares of park, you can find different observatories with themes like the weather, the universe, biodiversity, animals, plants and machines. Much to our delight, there’s also lots of green space designed just to play and digest all the newly acquired scientific knowledge.
After a much needed oxygen break, our next stop is the exhibition H20, where we discover that as much as 50% of all the waterways in the world is polluted. And that only 4% of humankind is responsible for 25% of greenhouse emissions. Another thing: we all use to much water. Specialized filters, shower heads and soap nuts (of the Sapindus tree) can help lower our daily water consumption. Especially because access to clean drinking water will be one of the biggest challenges for the future. Felix is impressed by the film about the unequal distribution of clean water on our planet.
Our heads are full, legs need to move. So we dive into the Acrobat! trail, connecting three floors filled with exhibitions about inventors, materials and sports. Felix outruns himself and scores at the basketball court. Lucy exercises in her very own way: she listens carefully to a fragment about hypertechnologrical sneakers.
Pass, Parc d’aventures scientifiques, Rue de Mons 3, 7080 Frameries. Info: www.pass.be.