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HIMACS: Glasgow Science Centre

"Bodyworks exhibition" at Glasgow Science Centre

The scientists at the Glasgow Science Centre might have had these words from Thomas Aquinas in mind when they dedicated a permanent exhibition to the awareness of the body and its health. Developed with ARKA Design Studio for the top floor of the Science Centre, it is an interactive and experimental exhibition concept intended to inspire wonder and encourage research in a playful approach to conveying knowledge to old and young alike. The material they chose for the whole exhibition was HIMACS.

The Glasgow Science Centre is part of a complex on the banks of the Clyde; with its extravagant shape and prismatic, shell-like frame, the building resembles a glass amoeba. The aim of the exhibition is to encourage the discovery and understanding of science and technology with a thought-provoking, amusing and exciting experience, to create awareness in the people of Scotland. The permanent "BodyWorks" exhibition opened at the end of March 2013 on the third floor of the Science Centre and is dedicated to the discovery of the human body. A hardwearing material was needed to allow interaction with the exhibits making HIMACS the natural choice. The acrylic stone consists of 67% powdered natural stone, 30% acrylic and 3% natural pigments - all valuable, laboratory-tested materials. Its surface is free of pores, which renders it dirt-resistant and extremely easy to look after.

To allow the human body and its properties to be explored, the Glasgow designers, who were drawn from a number of disciplines, chose an interactive exhibition concept at which the visitors assume the role of scientists but at the same time are the subjects of their experiments. The designers developed more than 100 interactive elements under three main headings: "About you" zones, interactive zones and "Research" capsules, in which the visitors conduct their own research. In a "Live Lab" made completely from HIMACS, laboratory assistants demonstrate experiments to the amazement of their audience. The surface of the acrylic stone is extremely homogeneous, so that no fluids or chemicals can penetrate the furniture and it retains its attractive appearance.

The experimental zones are arranged by topic in the open-plan area. Design Director Karen Hamilton and her team used repeating exhibition elements which lend an interior design edge to the subject matter. For example, "Interactive Tables" are distributed throughout the exhibition area. Organically shaped and consisting of three HIMACS slabs arranged at a 120° angle to each other, they can be used as computer workstations, for experiments or for research.

The playful approach of the exhibition attracts many children, another reason why HIMACS was chosen for hygienic reasons. In the "About You" section, the visitors figure in their own experiment as they compare their own physical and psychological abilities with those of other visitors and of sporting personalities. For example, it includes a "human hamster wheel" in which they can test how much energy they generate. The wheel is accompanied by a presentation wall made of HIMACS printed with texts to explain the exhibit. Acrylic stone is almost as robust as natural stone, but can be worked and processed in the same way as wood, and is also resistant to bacteria and viruses.

The uses of the material are practically unlimited, which is also demonstrated by the five Research Capsules which are distributed throughout the exhibition and address in scientific terms questions such as "How to mend a broken heart" and "How your body fights back"; they form one of the main attractions of the exhibition. These organically shaped structures form an enclosed space clad with CNC-milled HIMACS panels displaying organic elements or inlaid designs to stimulate interest in the cube's subject. Access to the capsules is via backlit gaps in the shell, which creates an exciting moment and which also relieves visitors of any reluctance to engage with science.

Even if it is never possible to satisfy completely the desire for knowledge, the mission of this exhibition to enlighten remains a future-oriented proposition. That is why the choice of material has been such a good one, because HIMACS is a new generation material; its intelligent composition of natural minerals and pigments allows it to meet the highest standards of aesthetics, functionality and hygiene.

Location Glasgow, Scotland
Architecture & Design ARKA Design Studio
Material used HIMACS Arctic White, ,Grey
Fabrication Elmwoods
Photo Credit ©Paul Zanre
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