Take a flying-saucer-looking thing with a center-mounted rotor and adjustable
blades, power it up, and see how it soars.
Tour the Milky Way from a seat in a 3-D, wrap-around galaxy
Or make it personal, exploring cells, chromosomes, and genetic
signatures as you compare your tongue-rolling ability, hair color,
and ear-lobe attachment status with others.
Today, officials will hold a groundbreaking for the 144,000-square-foot,
$149.5 million Connecticut Center for Science and Exploration
at Adriaen's Landing. An international competition ended last
year with the selection of a futuristic, sweeping design by New
Haven-based architect Cesar Pelli.
Now, with the building slated to open in 2008, museum officials
are turning their attention to the critical question of what
the museum will look like inside.
The central theme is fairly simple: experience. Visitors to
the museum are not only going to see science or read about science,
said Theodore S. Sergi, president of the center. They're going
to do science.
"You can't be there and be passive, you've got to be active," Sergi
said. "Because when you go and do something active, you
remember it more."
The center's board in April
hired an exhibit design team made up of two companies, Thinc
Design of New York, and Jeff Kennedy Associates of Boston.
Today the center's board will consider an "exhibit concept plan" to
shape a visitor's experience.
"Concept design," said Jeff Kennedy,"is
the most difficult part, because you have to narrow from huge
areas of science down to a few, well-chosen opportunities for
The plan begins with the notion that science is both constantly
relevant to everyday life - and constantly changing.
The center's four largest galleries would be devoted to earth
science, space science, physical science, and human health. Other
galleries would have the themes of art, music and culture; Connecticut
inventions; Connecticut River Valley; clean energy; and sports
science. There would also be a children's gallery.
As work continues, the names may change, but the concepts won't,
Kennedy said. After the designers were hired earlier this year,
the conceptual plan evolved based on input from over 100 people,
including scientists, educators, engineers and science students
from two area schools.
"People come because they're curious, and we're really
trying to satiate that," Kennedy said.
One key element of the plan is to make sure the exhibits touch
everyone, regardless of age or scientific sophistication. The
challenge, Kennedy said, is to keep adults and science-literate
kids interested, but also appeal to those less interested in
"Hitting that tipping point is exceedingly tricky," he
said. Some exhibits will have "program modes" that
add levels of complexity to them, but much is left to be designed,
Another way to ensure interest is to root the exhibits in personal
experiences - inviting visitors to mount and ride a stationary
version of the bike used by cyclist Lance Armstrong, for example,
in order to compare the rider's heart rate and lung capacity
with that of the champion.
Another display might ask visitors to manipulate wind blowers
to try to suspend a lightweight ball in the air. A light and
shadow art performance space would allow people to use light,
shadows, and their own bodies to create an artistic experience.
The museum will also feature
Science Alley, a "dramatic,
soaring architectural space" that will run through the heart
of the building. The alley - 40 feet at its widest, 130 feet
at its tallest - is both a public thoroughfare and an entrance
to the center's galleries.
The alley is expected to contain a solar-powered, interactive
mobile - based on the original mobile invented by Connecticut
artist Alexander Calder.
The designers have also thought
about the best ways to keep the exhibits fresh. Four "current science mini-exhibitions," one
in each of the four main galleries, would change annually. And
working off visitor feedback, the center's popular components
could be augmented and expanded upon.
Finally, the center could
have one new "feature component" that
changes each year in a visible location.
Should the board approve the conceptual plan at today's meeting,
the designers will move into the next phase, further developing
their ideas and finalizing plans. A private firm will do audience
research surveys and seek feedback on the exhibit design.
"They have to go back now and do some real design for development
for June," Sergi said. "They've done a lot of work
in six months."
The museum's $149.5 million price tag is being funded with roughly
$107 million in state funding. The remaining roughly $42 million
will come from other sources.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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