Playful Learning in Spectacular Immersive Spaces
At the gates of Dhahran. At the site where Saudi Arabia's first oil well was discovered, there is now a spectacular cultural hub: The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture. It offers space for international meetings, but also houses an exhibition designed to give Saudi Arabia's youth in particular an in-depth picture of the natural history of their country. Under the title 'Arabian Journeys', an elaborate ensemble of interactive stations, expansive, curved projections and exhibits was developed. The possibilities of combining interactive stations and immersive projections are consistently explored. In this way, the exhibition sets new standards in terms of knowledge transfer through gamification.
Unique Interactive Stations
iart is responsible for the development and implementation of the media stations that invite visitors to interact in the seven zones of the exhibition. Their physical and digital components were developed in relation to the respective thematic focuses. Form and functionality vary and make the media stations unique. What all the stations have in common, however, is that they correspond with immersive projections, which frame the thematic zones. The actions of the visitors thus change the appearance of the entire landscape through which they walk. Thus they playfully learn how the Arabian Peninsula came into being, what characterises its flora and fauna today and how the habitat can be preserved for the future. ATELIER BRÜCKNER was responsible for the design of the entire exhibition.
Accompanied by Two Virtual Narrators
On their way, visitors are accompanied by two virtual narrators who appear on screens or projections. They welcome and bid farewell to the visitors and provide guidelines for action and contextual information.
The origin of the Arabian Peninsula is the theme of the first zone through which visitors move. On a large globe, the continental shifts that have created the land mass over millions of years become visible. A projector inside the globe throws the changing appearance of the planet's surface onto the spherical shell of the exhibit. Visitors control the flow on the time axis by hand.
The vertical dimension of the continental shifts becomes visible on the pin table next to it: thousands of closely joined hexagonal rods move up and down, forming a three-dimensional relief that serves as a horizontal projection surface. The changing surface of the exhibit corresponds to the changing topography of the Arabian Peninsula over thousands of years.
The theme of the second zone of the exhibition is the mountain range on the western flank of Saudi Arabia. It is shaped in Corian and is visually contoured by a projection. The table offers interactive possibilities on both sides of the chain of summits: a digital journey leads visitors through the mountains in several stages. After a successful hike, the exhibit reacts and gathers the surrounding players in a 'collective moment'.
In the area between the thematic zones, interactive books playfully tell the story of journeys to archaeological sites, pilgrimage destinations and commercial centres. The books are set into the curved elements in the centre of the exhibition. Some sections are printed, others are filled with digital animations. Sensors in the pedestal enable visitors to trigger actions and choose between Arabic and English at the touch of a finger.
Back in one of the zones, visitors experience the characteristics of the two seas surrounding the Arabian Peninsula. An interactive table allows their features to appear physically: Parts of the table are moved by touch, so that the depth of the oceans and life in different depths become visible. Here, too, visitors explore the habitat in an interactive parcours. The expansive wall projection also is interactive: swarms of fish react to the movements of the visitors in the exhibition space.
Into the Future
The last thematic zone takes a look into the future. As it is still unknown, the zone's design is abstract. Gathered around a central polygonal table, up to five players simultaneously try to manage natural resources in an interactive game and thus symbolically secure a successful future. The playing surface extends over the table and walls: the effects of the players' actions become visible all over the room.
Dhahran (Saudi Arabia)
Conception, Planning and Realisation
29 November 2018