Category Archives: light

The Post-Modern Museum

At some point in the mid 20th Century the modern museum began to take on a new form. Consumer culture gained a hightened level of self-consciousness, and the very notion of “the self” as shaped by individual experiences rather than a societal imperatives, took root and fostered a new way of thinking about museums. What emerged was a focus on the customer, a deeper understanding of the audience and meeting that audience’s needs. The post-modern museum emphasizes the user, education, relevancy and accessibility. In fact it is often described as a place of lifelong learning, supplementary to a more formal education compulsory learning in schools. Unlike the modern museum which might be characterized by didactic pedagogy, learning in a post-modern museum is experiential and accounts for different learning styles. Here the constituent chooses his or her own interests and the museum tailors its programs and exhibitions to those interests. Instead of prioritizing the curator’s voice as an overarching authority, these museums rely more on the meanings produced by their visitors and constituents through interactive engagement. As Eilean Hooper-Greenhill puts it “Meaning is produced by museum visitor from their own point of view, using whatever knowledge and skills they bring with them, according to the contingent demands of the moment”. Here, modern social psychology and constructivist educational theory prevails.

Museum Stages.xlsx

Exhibitions in these museums are largely developed with the aid of professional designers, creative practitioners who borrow the tools of advertising, a carefully crafted language, the focus group, formative evaluation and the survey. They are generally multi-modal, mixing a large variety of tools and techniques – combining exhibit script, objects, photography, graphics, media, interactivity, immersive sensory experiences, dramatic and directed lighting  – all of which serves to stimulate the exploratory desires of the visitor. The may have a proscriptive route but often have ways to wander and impulsively dig deeper into subjects you might be interested in. The ultimate challenge of this kind of museum which seeks cultural relevancy is that culture is a moving target.

Tim Ventimiglia

Exhibiting Architecture or Promoting Tourism?

"Chile: Territory For Architcture" Exhibition

"Chile: Territory For Architecture" Exhibition at Pure Chile Gallery

“Chile: Territory for Architecture” is a temporary exhibition showed during the month of September in the Pure Chile Gallery in SOHO to celebrate Chilean Architecture. This small exhibition was curetted by Alberto Sato and presented a selection of works by 12 Chilean architects developed through all the Chilean territory from the northern desert to the South Pole. As Sato himself wrote, these architectural works represent “a new alliance between what is native and what is exotic; between the planetary dimension and the domestic dimension; between eternalness and ephemeralness; between fashion and the sense of cultural transcendence”.

The exhibition displayed important Chilean works such as: the Elemental Iquique by Alejandro Aravena, the Museo del Desierto de Atacama by Ramon Coz and others, the Edificio BIP Computers by Alberto Mozo and the “Termas Geotermicas” by German del Sol. Once you entered to the cozy gallery there was a beautiful image of the Chilean map (the same one on this blog) shining on the left wall of the room, I could notice it was backlit with three fluorescent tubes and it was the main character in this mini-exhibition.   The exhibition based its show on digital media, displaying the works of architecture on three big screens located under the image of the Chilean map. Images of the different pieces of architecture, actual photos and renderings appeared in the screens; each of them showing a different project. It was a little bit annoying having to stand in there in front of these three screens waiting to see all of the 12 architectural works. The wall on the back was used to project some drawings of the works. White drawings projected on a black surface. The experience was very similar to the one with the screens; if there was an special work that I wanted to see I had to stand in there and wait for the other 11 works to show up.

It was a completely directed exhibition. It was impossible to create your own experience, to look at it in your own way. I understand the dimensions of the space were limiting but I was expecting to have a little bit more options to experience it. The lack of real objects was its biggest weakness. Me and my friends were expecting to see real drawings, sketches, actual models, real objects that could give us a better understanding of the process behind these 12 architectural works and create a stronger connection with them but it didn’t happen. Moreover the gallery looked more like a travel agency; it was full of catalogs promoting Chile and typical Chilean products for sell. The exhibition itself was so weak that I am still wondering, was this exhibition really about Chilean architecture or was it just an excuse to promote this gallery and tourism in Chile?

Ma. Antonia Villegas

Not Science Fiction

Renzo Piano creates a master piece for the California Academy of Science and recreates the building envelope as a  multi-functional form for the museum. This single structure curves with the surrounding environments while containing multiple spaces within. This includes a four-story rainforest, the aquarium, the planetarium, and the natural history museum. There is also a roof terrace that allows the visitor to experience the rolling mounds that create this iconic roof system. This process of creating a green roof that houses natural, living plant specimens enables the building to change with its surroundings while at pivotal movement’s glass apertures direct daylight into specific areas. This design has received Platinum rating from Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and is one of the largest public buildings to have this rating.

This facility is setting the benchmark on what the future of the museum, and for that matter, what the science museum will eventually become. Technology that is engaging and user-friendly allows for people to immerse themselves into experiences that may be out of reach for them. Visitors can view the most up-to-date renderings of the universe, catch virtual butterflies with a digital net, and connect their cell phone and go for an Academy-wide scavenger hunt. The use of technology within these facilities will transform and reshape these spaces, as well as the next generation of visitors that will in turn be designing the future of museums.

This building reaches out to such a large audience and this must be noted of how hitting target areas can ultimately leave you with an award winning museum. The California Academy of Science has a modern architectural form and in many cases, having a building designed by a famous architect will, inevitable bringing fame to the structure. Introducing new and up-to-date technology that targets a wide range of age groups can turn a traditional exhibition observation time of 25 seconds to one that reaches close to the 3 to 4 minute marker. In this day and age, new generations are learning to use technology at a younger age making digital media production, multimedia displays, technology platforms, and interactive gaming the cutting edge in how learning will be taught. Another great design accomplishment is introducing living specimens to embed greater understanding and knowledge to the viewer. The California Academy of Science also has an extensive library that serves both a pubic function, but mainly for the scientists at the academy.

Please take a moment to investigate this museum, as this is the future.

(Stephen Kayes)

It is Rocket Science!

Interactive Exhibits at the New York Hall of Science

Interactive Exhibits at the New York Hall of Science

The New York Hall of Science is landmarked by the two enormous NASA rockets situated out front. Seen from the subway these drew my curiosity towards the building. A nice perk that must be noted is that both on Fridays at 2-5pm and Sundays 10-11am admission is free. This gesture allows for a diverse range of class to see the exhibits that are being shown.

Outside the entrance of the facility, there is a large brass sundial that captured my attention for several minutes, while other visitors just merely walked passed it. Once inside the museum, I was directed towards the North Wing to experience the Earth at many different scales. The building’s design and fenestration allowed for a lot of natural daylight to enter almost every exhibition. The Central Pavilion creates a dramatic space with a scaled up model of a molecular structure that floats above the visitors heads. One of the most intriguing exhibits in this space was “Seeing the Light”. This exhibit merged the dynamics of light with mathematics and created simple interactive dioramas that isolated key problems that our eyes perceive due to contrast and shadows. This museum has a lot of potential and is a great source for hands-on learning for all ages.

(Stephen Kaye)

Sentient City

Amphibious Architecture

"Amphibious Architecture" at Toward a Sentient City

I was excited to see  great projects at the Toward the Sentient City exhibition at Urban Center last night. The projects represented visionary thoughts about situated technologies and networks in urban space  – digital workspaces in urban parks, satellite sending tags on discarded objects that track downstream waste systems in real-time, using roots of plants as carbon cycle circuit breakers, interactive street furniture that enforces good behavior, and my favorite… aquatic beacons that allow you to talk to fish in the bottom of the city’s waterspace. The Amphibious Architecture team immersed several SMS addressable electronic sensors in the bottom of the East River and The Bronx River. You can text them and engage in a dialog. Here is a short transcript:

me “Hey East River”, them “Underwater, its now loud”, me ” Hey Herring”, them “Hi there there are 24 of us down here . Dissolved oxygen is higher than last week”, me ” RiverRiver”, them “Right now the East River is louder than the Bronx River. This hour 18 fish swam by in East, and 11 in Bronx. Dissolved Oxygen is higher in Bronx”

It reminded me  of the Fish Finder radar that my grandfather and I discreetly deployed on many of our fishing expeditions. But this the added sense of having a dialog with your prey. Now anytime I am feeling a bit too high and dry in my office (which overlooks the East River) I can find out what’s going on down there along its murky bottom. Just text message “EastRiver” to 41411.

Periods and Boundaries

Period Room

Period Room at the Metropolitan Museum

The Period Rooms at the Met have always captivated me. The period room genre is essentially that of a full-scale architectural time capsule. But these rooms also trigger a visceral sense that you could just step in and sit down to a soon-to-be-served dinner. I have seen other period rooms in other museums, in other countries even, but the Met’s have always seemed to me so exacting in their detail and theatricality and represent a total commitment to preservation of an interior space. Silently, and almost without text, they tell of another way of life that is forever lost in time. The lighting effects at the windows suggest that this life continues outside and just beyond our grasp.

I was back at the Met recently and discovered that in place of the old labels they have added a layer of interpretive programs on large LCDs mounted to the rail. There is something cynical and perhaps a bit sinister in this. While I do think the media programs executed by Small Design are thoughtfully designed, with smooth interfaces and are incredibly helpful in understanding the contents of the room, I am at the same time stuck by the decision to use this technology in this particular context. If there is any place left in the world that you would expect to escape the glow of the now ubiquitous flatscreen it would be here in the Met’s Period Rooms. The monitor stands in such contrast to the contents of room so perhaps the museum felt that the boundary remains clear. But then again it is the tenuous nature of the old flimsy rail and its archaic labels that makes the boundary so tempting to leap over.