One part science museum, two parts corporate advert, Siemens’ The Crystal in Royal Victoria Dock is a so-so introduction to environmental science, so long as you like it sponsored.
The new glass buildings that sprout like weeds along the revamped docklands of east London rarely conceal their true identities, their storeys-tall names calling out like sponsored beacons in the London fog.
But I thought that maybe, just maybe, this squat, spear-cornered building at Royal Victoria Dock wasn’t like the others, but as it turns out, its corporate branding font size was just a little smaller.
LONDON THING 128 OF 1000: Visit the Crystal.
The Crystal houses a permanent exhibition on sustainable cities, how they work, what we’ll do in the face of global warming and resource shortages, and how we’re going to cope with all these people.
Distill all of this down, and you essentially have my environmental studies degree, so I was delighted and intrigued by what this museum had to offer.
Unfortunately, it didn’t start off well. Entry to the exhibition was a steep £8, extra disappointing because my 1000 Things to Do in London book says that it’s free. What you get in exchange for your £8 is a strange but sleek-looking hardback book about the exact same thing that’s covered in the exhibition.
Siemens chose a tough topic: It’s not easy to make a museum about something that’s constantly in flux and always being improved upon. Perhaps that’s why most of the exhibition is a tour through the company’s various projects around the world.
Although a lot of the exhibitions were novels on touch screens, the games were fun, like the Wii Fit-inspired one where if you did all the right things, the Tesla coil would fire.
I wouldn’t feel so hard done by if the exhibition was still free, but at the current price, you’re better off buying a secondhand copy of An Inconvenient Truth from Amazon. And even that’s 10 years old now.
If you do find yourself in the area, at least you can fly out of there with the Emirates cable car.
Visit: The Crystal, 1 Siemens Brothers Way, London, E16 1GB. DLR Royal Victoria or Emirates Air Line. Entry £8.
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