How Zaha Hadid Architects designed the Science Museum’s mathematics gallery

A first look inside The Winton Gallery, which has been designed to show the field of turbulence formed around an aircraft wing.

A new permanent gallery dedicated to “the importance of mathematics in our everyday lives” has been designed by Zaha Hadid Architects and is opening at the Science Museum.

The ambitious design represents the sweeping field of turbulence, which forms around an aerodynamic aeroplane wing. In the gallery it delineates spaces and helps to dictate the layout of the exhibition.

Hovering at the centre of the gallery is a Handley Page “Gugnunc” biplane, which was designed in 1929 in response to a competition to design a safer aircraft.

Crucially, aerodynamic research directly informed the wing design and set a precedent for aerodynamic design today. It is also an example of one of the key messages of the gallery – how mathematical practice has helped solve real world problems.

Technology, mathematics and engineering collections

There are more than 100 pieces on display drawn from the Science Museum’s technology, mathematics and engineering collections.

The exhibits explore the influence of mathematics on everything from trade to travel, war, peace, life, death, form and beauty.

Visitors will be able to learn about objects such as the enigma machine, where the mathematical link is clear, as well as intriguing collections such as a box of glass eyes used by Francis Galton in his 1884 Anthropometric Laboratory to help measure the physical characteristics of the British public.

The late Zaha Hadid and new practice principal Patrik Schumacher pitched their idea in 2014. Hadid became interested in geometry when studying mathematics at university.

“When I was growing up in Iraq, math was an everyday part of life. We would play with math problems just as we would play with pens and paper to draw – math was like sketching,” Hadid had said.

New Digital Lab

The Science Museum has also announced the launch of its new Digital Lab, which will make use of emerging technologies in order to explore existing collections.

Technologies such as virtual reality, 3D scanning and high definition rotational photography will be experimented with as part of the project.

The first focus will be the mathematics gallery where the Handley Page aircraft will be the inspiration for a VR experience, which allows visitors to “fly” in the plane and learn about the mathematical principles, that underpin its design.

The Winton Gallery opens on 8 December at the Science Museum, Exhibition Road, Kensington, SW7 2DD.

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