Geology does not conjure up the most exciting of images, but the generally dry image is about to be challenged by the Natural History Museum’s Earth Galleries. The museum will open its largest single exhibition project since 1881 on 20 July, with three galleries designed by Met Studio, Neal Potter and Event.
Neal Potter has designed the Visions of Earth gallery, while Event has created a gallery called The Power Within. Met Studio’s contribution has been the design of the 600m2 Restless Surface gallery, working to a brief demanding a fresh and challenging look at the forces which sculpt the Earth’s surface and how that surface has changed through the millennia.
‘The gallery’s subject – the giant erosive forces which shape the surface of the land – lends itself to the creation of sculptural, dramatic spaces,’ says a Met Studio spokeswoman. The gallery features a series of custom-made interactive sites which allow visitors to explore the natural processes which shape the earth’s surface. A key exhibit is a large ‘settling’ tank, where visitors can create their own land forms in miniature and learn to identify features which are familiar in the natural landscape.
Dramatic lighting and sound effects are used to create atmosphere in the entrance area, which ‘evokes the restlessness of the four elements of the surface system – air, water, rock and life’, adds the spokeswoman. Slate floorings, wood and stone have been used alongside corroded and etched metal and glass throughout the gallery to evoke the corrosive effects of the planet’s atmosphere on its solid surface.
According to Alex McCuiag, Met Studio’s managing director, the Earth Galleries ‘will be instrumental in taking earth sciences into the next millennium’.