Shock treatment

The Science Museum’s new Energy Gallery uses cutting-edge interactive exhibits to captivate, inspire and educate visitors, says Pamela Buxton

But most exhibits are games. KRD/Robson & Jones’ Energy Shut Down is a pneumatically-operated city of tower blocks that rise up and illuminate when switched on, using the city as a metaphor for energy. The aim of the four-player game is to retain the most energy, with players battling to rescue the city engineer from a lift and working to keep hospital patients alive.

Several interactives are fairly physical. Plant/LandTransmedia’s installation on energy transfer is gesture-driven by visitors. Images are made up entirely of words, with orange used to signify energy. Spiral, meanwhile, uses dance-mat technology to explore sourcing energy from nature. AllofUs’s Modern Lifestyles mixes digital and analogue media and includes huge, 2m-high picture drums that contestants turn to select the right answer in a quiz game about energy consumption.

Blast Theory’s installation on future energy sources and their impact on the built environment rises up from the floor like a periscope. Handles on the side operate a touch-screen with a turning diorama that children use as part of the energy detective game.

But the most dramatic of them all is Moeller’s subversive electric-shock-generating totem, Do Not Touch‚ which illustrates (safely) the power and danger of energy.

Interactive exhibitions have the potential to flop when they break down, as demonstrated at the Millennium Dome. But the museum is confident that the Energy Gallery will stand the pace and meet its visitor targets.

‘The trick is the balance between something that’s robust and something where learning outcomes are rich,’ says Molloy. Exhibits have to meet the gallery’s five- to ten-year lifespan.

‘Some of my team have spent ages playing in the name of testing. We all tried to break [the exhibits],’ says Redler. They’ll soon be put to the real, acid test of hordes of marauding children when the gallery opens to the public.

The Science Museum’s Energy Gallery opens on 23 July

The Energy Gallery Client – Science Museum Exhibition design – Casson Mann Graphic design consultant – Graphic Thought Facility Lighting design – dha design

Installations:

ENERGY ZONE

Energy Everywhere – Plant and Land Transmedia

Making Energy Useful – Spiral

Do Not Touch – Christian Moeller

ENERGY TODAY ZONE

Donut – Mike Stubbs

Energy in Everyday Life – AllofUs

Energy Shutdown – KRD Robson & Jones

ENERGY FUTURE ZONE

Explore Your Energy Futures – Blast Theory

Is This Your Energy Future? – Dunne & Raby

World Energy: What does the future hold? – Plant

ENERGY INFO ZONE AND WEBSITE

Spiral with Flowstate

ENERGY RING

Casson Mann and Soda

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