Multi-award-winning masterplanners and exhibition designers MET Studio have been commissioned to create three galleries for China’s new Ningbo Science Exploration Centre, due to open in Spring 2012. The 50,000 sq m new-build centre will house six permanent galleries in total, across two storeys, and MET Studio (in a joint undertaking between the company’s London and Hong Kong offices) won the pitch to design three of the six galleries, after taking part in an international pitch involving design companies from Europe, the USA, Japan and China.
‘MET Studio has worked on a number of important museum and gallery projects in Asia since the company’s inception in 1982’, commented MET Studio Chairman Alex McCuaig, ‘but mostly in Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau. Although we have also worked in mainland China before, this is the largest such project and we hope it will be the first of many’.
The subject matter for the new-build science centre is the natural world and the laws of physics, with an underlying didactic message about how we can best protect the earth, by examining how we live on earth and how we sustain our quality of life on earth. The centre will be one of the major attractions in a new cultural plaza in the city of Ningbo, which will also include an IMAX theatre, a Children’s Museum and a Performing Arts Centre. Ningbo, a seaport and one of China’s oldest cities, located on the country’s eastern coast, south of Hangzhou Bay.
The three large-scale galleries, each measuring between 2,000 and 2,500 sq m, are entitled ‘Universe’, ‘Harmonious Home’ and ‘Ocean’. The MET Studio London team has designed ‘Universe’ and ‘Harmonious Home’, under the direction of Design Director Lloyd Hicks, whilst the company’s Hong Kong team is overseeing the ‘Ocean’ gallery, under the direction of Design Director Neil Williams, with Lloyd Hicks and Chinese advisor Dr Tai overseeing the delivery of the whole three- gallery project. Graphics and communication in the galleries (also to be created by MET Studio) will be bi-lingual, in both Chinese and English.
The ‘Universe’ gallery will look at cosmology and the origins of the universe, from the ‘Big Bang’ to the expansion of space and our means of examining space, from space telescopes to space travel and space biodomes. Design features will include a theatrical film introduction; a huge projected solar system on the gallery floor, where visitors can interact with stars and black holes and Wii-style games where visitors see how astronauts train for a mission and deal with g-force and micro gravity, as well as a bungee walk exhibit, where real life weight is temporarily neutralised.
The ‘Harmonious Home’ gallery considers man’s effect on the earth, examining our carbon footprint and asking how carbon mass contributes to global warming. Visitors will be asked to consider lifestyle choices and their effect on the earth through a highly interactive exhibition which examines for example the true cost of bringing a cheeseburger to market or, on a larger scale via an ‘impact wall’, how mass human consumption affects the earth and how what we take out in terms of quarrying, timber-felling etc correlates badly with the waste, toxic or otherwise, we return to the earth.
The ‘Oceans’ gallery will first explore the driving forces and principles of the world’s oceans. The locally-important theme of ocean trade throughout history and in contemporary society will anchor the gallery, with a major area focusing on modern port technology in the heart of the space. Visitors will be able to investigate the rich mineral life and biodiversity of the oceans before immersing themselves in themed areas, looking first at the two major polar oceans and finally at the wonders and unexplored mysteries of the deep ocean.
‘Ningbo is a remarkable city’, commented MET Studio Design Director Lloyd Hicks, ‘and this new science centre is a major undertaking and the culmination of a huge research programme into other science centres worldwide. This is an encouraging and original initiative, which is seeking to make a mark with a really original interpretation’.Location: Ningbo, Zhejiang, China Architect: MET Studio
Opening Date: Spring 2012