At-Bristol is a public science and technology "exploration" and education centre in Bristol, England. At its opening the centre consisted of Explore, which contains features on mechanics, sound and light, computer science, space and the human brain; Wildwalk, a science centre comprising two artificial rainforests, aquariums and other ecology-related exhibits; and an IMAX theatre. Wildwalk and the IMAX Theatre closed at the end of March 2007 due to a lack of funding and government support. Explore continues to operate, and the Wildwalk building has been converted into an aquarium by Blue Reef Aquarium, with the IMAX cinema being used to show nature and wildlife films.

History and background
The project opened in 2000 as the successor to the Exploratory, a large science museum and demonstration centre in the former terminus train shed at Bristol Temple Meads Station (later home to the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum), but moved to a city centre site as part of the regeneration of the historical Floating Harbour. The project was funded with £44.3 million from the National Lottery, Millennium Commission, South West of England Regional Development Agency, and a further £43.4 million from commercial partners (including a controversial donation from Nestlé) and Bristol City Council. The centre is situated on the former Canon's Wharf. Wildwalk and the IMAX cinema occupied a modified 19th century former lead-works building, and Explore occupies a 1906 railway goods shed measuring 540 ft by 133 ft (165 m by 41 m). The goods shed was one of the first buildings to use reinforced concrete and both buildings are Grade II listed buildings. The buildings are located around Millennium Square - also part of the regeneration - and Pero's Bridge, a footbridge across the harbour which links it to the Arnolfini art gallery, Bristol Industrial Museum and Queen Square. The centre is popularly known as @Bristol, due to the appearance of its logo. This features the word "at" surrounded by a partial circle, reminiscent of an @ symbol. However, the official spelling is At-Bristol, which is how the name appears on the web site and promotional material.

Explore-At-Bristol, or just Explore, is a hands-on science museum, incorporating five distinct sections:
  • Move It - The first large area when entering the museum, Move It deals with forces ( in the exhibit Naturally Newton) and flight ( Dreams of Flight).
  • Your Amazing Brain – The second large section on the ground floor, this area deals with the human brain, in particular optical illusions and memory.
  • Curiosity Zone – Incorporating most of the upper level, this area deals with sound, light, force, magnets, and also includes a mock television studio.
  • Space – This area includes a small exhibit about space travel, and the large Planetarium, in which 4-6 demonstrations are given daily.
  • Live Science Zone – An area for special events.
Explore is housed in a former railway goods shed, which was renovated to house the centre. The renovations included the addition of a large glass atrium to the North of the building, and stainless-steel sphere to the south, housing the planetarium. The architect behind the renovation was Chris Wilkinson. An interesting feature of the building is the eutectic tank, which is a 10 metres (33 ft) high transparent tube filled with thousands of balls containing eutectic salts. As the temperature within the building rises, the crystals within the balls melt, taking in the heat and cooling the building. As the building cools, the salts crystallise again, giving out heat. In this way, the tank helps keep the temperature within the centre constant.

Wildwalk was an Ecology Science centre, which contained two artificial rainforests, aquariums, hands-on exhibits, and live animal exhibits. The centre comprised a large building (previously a lead-works building) with a ‘living rainforest’ attached to the southern side, and was designed by Michael Hopkins & Partners. The centre housed a large number of animals, including butterflies, crabs, chameleons, frogs, finches, partridges, piranhas, seahorses, scorpions, snakes, spiders, tarantulas, triggerfish: in total over 150 species from all major animal groups. The botanical house was split into two distinct sections: Plants on Land, which traced the development of plants from simple mosses through to complex flowering plants; and Tropical Forests, which showcased plants from tropical continents, including a cycad which produced a rare, bright red cone 45 cm (18 in) tall and 80 cm (31 in) in circumference in 2003. Following Wildwalk's closure, all animals and plants were re-homed to other zoos and natural history venues. Additionally, some elements of the exhibits from Wildwalk have been incorporated into Explore.

Housed in the same building as Wildwalk, the IMAX theatre was the first of the three At-Bristol attractions to open, on 20 April 2000. Since opening, the theatre received over 1.1 million visitors, and screened 70 films. The longest running film, and thus that with the highest attendance figures, was Cyberworld 3D.

Closure of Wildwalk and IMAX
Since opening, At-Bristol had an annual operating deficit of around £1.5 million to be filled by fundraising. Though the charity had no problems securing short term funds and grants to cover this when the centre was set up, enabling them to run the three attractions for just over six years, by 2005/2006 most of these had either decreased greatly or ended altogether. This left only two options: close the whole centre, or close Wildwalk and IMAX, enabling existing funds to be channelled exclusively to Explore. As Explore was most popular with visitors, whereas Wildwalk and the IMAX theatre were most expensive to run, it was decided that the second option was viable, and in this way Explore could become financially viable in the future. For these reasons, Wildwalk and the IMAX theatre closed for the last time on Saturday, 31 March 2007, making 45 people redundant. The Regional Development Agency worked alongside Bristol City Council to find new uses for the buildings. The University of the West of England expressed an interest in taking over the buildings to use for public outreach work with schools. In April 2008 it was announced that the Wildwalk building was to be converted into an aquarium and that the IMAX will be used to show nature and wildlife films. The £4 million plan by Newquay firm Blue Reef Aquarium, intended to provide a site for tropical marine and freshwater creatures, which opened in October 2009.


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