Client: Museum of Science, Boston
Project: Hall of Human Life
Role: Exhibit Designer
Challenge: Designing an exhibit that was conceptualized since 2004 and bringing it to completion in 2 1/2 years.
The Hall of Human Life is a 10,000 square foot permanent exhibit that looks at human biology through the eye of DNA and genetics. The exhibit is divided into 5 environments: Food, Physical Forces (like gravity), Communities, Organisms (around, on, and inside of you), and Time (like critical periods or aging).
Within each of the five environments, there are three “Link Stations,” where the visitors, armed with uniquely coded wristbands, are able to participate match their stats up against other visitors. The anonymous visitor data will compile over time and will work to inform and shape the ever-changing exhibit.
When I came to the Museum of Science in the spring of 2011, they had just broken ties with an outside design consultancy who had been working on the design of the Hall of Human Life. The Museum decided that the direction the consultancy was ultimately not in line with that of the HHL team. Alongside a graphic designer and CAD designer, I was specifically brought into the museum as a 3d exhibition designer to work under the lead of a seasoned Museum Exhibit Designer and Graphic Designer to make this project come to fruition.
Although this was an overwhelming undertaking, we were lucky in the sense that many of the interactive experiences had been fleshed out in the previous iteration. We were also incredibly fortunate that the five person design team worked unbelievably well together.
Mike, the lead 3d exhibition designer, and I worked to ideate the look and feel, and material and color palettes together. After designing a typical ID wall, we split the design work within the space, having agreed upon and identified the 3d elements featured in the design. Mike tended to take on the very large, iconic pieces, while I took on the meat of the interactive kiosks.
Our main audience is eleven and up, so we therefore wanted to make this space feel adult and warm. We chose to work with a caramelized bamboo to bring in an earthy feel. We also loved the idea of transparency and translucency between layers. Some of our components are very large, and we worked hard to make them as airy as possible.
Since our exhibit contains cutting edge information, it was critical that it was created to be updated on a regular basis. This exhibition is slated to remain at the MOS for the next twenty years, so our goal was to design a modular exhibition that can be reconfigured in the future.
During our first year as a team, we designed the exhibition and got an estimate for its fabrication. After 10 months, we applied for and were the recipients of a sizable Life Sciences grant, which meant that in 2012 and 2013, we could move forward with the construction of the Hall of Human Life.
In July 2012, we hired an outside fabricator to build the exhibit. Our HHL team spent 2012 working to solidify the 3d details, the content, the graphics, the programming, and the tech design (which is no mean feat!).
As part of the ideation process and for marketing purposes, I created some renderings of the proposed space. I have documented the experience of designing, CAD drawing, renovating and building the Hall of Human Life wing, which opened to the public in November 2013.