Interactive Science Forum

Submitted by Sharon Exley, MAAE Associate ASID

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Project

Client: Latin School of Chicago

Location: Chicago, United States

Completion date: 2013

Artwork budget: $150,000

Project Team

Architect

Peter Exley, FAIA

Architecture Is Fun, Inc.

Artist

Sharon Exley, MAAE Associate ASID

Architecture Is Fun, Inc.

Artist

Doug Fogelson

Client

Latin School of Chicago

Architect

Nagle Hartray Architecture

Overview

Fusing together creative processes of science, technology, and art, the 2200 SF Latin School of Chicago's Interactive Science Forum provides students hands-on access to scientific concepts and new technologies, with perspectives into the beauty, art, and complexity of our natural world.

As activated engaging public space, the forum features an iconic Omni-Globe real-time interactive media projection, flat screen wall monitors, design elements demonstrating scientific principles, reconfigurable risers housing specimens, and discipline-related activity niches linking classrooms. “Artscience” commissioned works include murals that serve as study tools, a kinetic wave sculpture, and photographic imagery of nature’s waves surrounding the entry.

Goals

During an envisioning session including esteemed alumni and parents, we often heard that art technology should be explored together within the forum. We designed the forum in multiple dimensions, to engage science students and those not pre-inclined to the sciences and technology through “artscience”. It was critical that this public space appeal to the young artist, the mathematician, the scientist, and the computer “geek” and that it be beautiful. Commissioning artworks based firmly in “real science’ was a pivotal way to meet these goals, while defining and nurturing a more responsive environment; one in which students, teachers, and visitors would be enthralled by imagery and hands-on experience. Integrating artwork into a “stem-based” public space helped generate learning “steam”. The Interactive Science Forum is truly a catalyst for creative alchemy, technology, and “artscience”.

Process

As architects and curators, we identified two artscience artists for the Latin School commission. The two artists worked closely with the design team, Latin School staff and students to create works that promote learning while forging unique connections to art and science. We wanted a series of graphic murals to act as viewports, bringing concepts of quantity, scale, space, and perspective within student grasp. Inspired by the Eames Powers of Ten film, we collaborated with photographer Doug Fogelson on a mural that would present a similar range of scientific and celestial imagery; one which would take viewers on an adventure of magnitude, zooming out from bird’s eye view on Earth to space’s outer reaches through exponential jumps of powers of 10. Representations of “waves” surround students on the curved stair, articulating the experience of movement, time, and space. Reuben Margolin’s kinetic "Nimbus Wave" activates the stairwell and generates excitement. Reminiscent of the movement of water, the sculpture ripples and fluctuates from its center, adding drama and engineering prowess. Complementing Margolin’s artwork, Fogelson’s second mural "Ventura" lines the stairwell, immersing students in the visual and emotional impact of ocean waves as a force of nature.