United States   |  2019

The Senses: Design Beyond Vision

Entrant Company

Studio Joseph

Category

Architectural Design

Client's Name

Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum

Sub-Category

Pop-ups & Temporary

Experience Level

Professional

Museums are places for education, yet they are seldom accessible to everyone in their presentation of content. Acknowledging the unfortunate truth that visually impaired people struggle to enjoy museum experiences, this exhibition featured direct sensory experiences and displayed practical, inventive and exploratory objects to touch, hear, see and smell through several interactive installations. Given the historic building fabric and its fragile finishes, the museum required the exhibition design installation to maintain structurally independent from the envelope—a challenge solved through the use of undulating steel screens. The screens, made with richly colored vinyl threads, were either woven for more transparency between areas or hung for more privacy between visitor and object onto black steel frames. These screens offered both visual and tactile stimuli and evoked “moods” by oscillating between cooler, low-frequency colors and warmer, high-frequency colors that seamlessly blended into different gradients. They served as both backdrops to the objects and definers of spaces, allowing different aesthetics to occupy the same installation while pragmatically solving issues of sound and aroma bleed and requirements for varied lighting levels. The modes of display considered how visitors would interact with the works both individually and in groups. Visitors were encouraged to smell, feel, and listen to highly distinct and original manifestations of design to better understand the complexity of our world, beyond vision. While some exhibition pieces were under vitrines, the majority were experienced through multiple senses, requiring custom means of installation, security, and contamination prevention. As awareness on accessibility was the show’s intent, we placed a cohesive braille overlay on museum labels. Labels remained at static height, tilted for custom accessibility throughout all areas. The show’s success was measured in that visitors felt a greater appreciation for how design can provide alternative means of understanding through a multisensory process.

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