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HENRY CROWN SPACE CENTER

Exploring Space: Past, Present and Future

When the Griffin Museum of Science and Industry tapped Bridgewater Studio to create an artifact case for the arrival of a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, the project quickly evolved into a complete reimagining of the Henry Crown Space Center. The goal was to create an awe-inspiring, inclusive, and transformative visitor experience that reflects the story of the diverse constellation of humans that made space exploration possible throughout history.

While the Dragon spacecraft is an exciting new chapter in this story, our mission was to take museum visitors on a complete journey. Working closely with MSI, our team tackled all aspects of 3D and physical design; graphics, media design and production; AV systems design and integration; multi-disciplinary fabrication as well as lighting design and integration, content development, and copywriting.

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The Challenge

While an aggressive budget and timeline provided typical challenges, the bigger consideration was traffic flow. The massive artifacts, the fixed layout of the museum space, and the swells of visitors periodically exiting the nearby Giant Dome Theater would all need to be addressed in order to deliver the perfect experience.

Strategy

Armed with a visitor flow analysis and limited options for layout, we began to craft the fascinating story of space exploration in America. Our strategy was to avoid the predictable ‘outer space’ theme and let the artifacts guide the experience. For example, the LM (Lunar Module) trainer was never in space. It was used to train astronauts – in fact, every astronaut who walked on the moon trained on it. So the concept of a working lab environment became the backdrop for introducing visitors to the pioneering heroes and groundbreaking technology integral to the story.

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Design

Our first step in design development was to create a digital model of the core and shell of the building. The model would be used throughout the project to visualize ideas and changes in real-time with our colleagues at MSI.

This allowed us to plan the visitor experience around traffic flow and the ideal placement of artifacts. Most importantly, it served as the canvas for crafting a story that would unfold with every step and captivate around every turn. Among the design highlights are seamless, 360-degree glass enclosures providing dramatic, close-up views of “floating” spacecraft from all angles.

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Production

Over 15 months, our engineering, fabrication, 3D printing, graphics, media production, and technology teams worked in tandem from inception to installation. As a single vendor working closely with MSI, we were able to streamline design and production, respond quickly to feedback and evolving conceptual challenges, and keep everyone marching in the same direction. Having all these specialties under one roof eliminated boundaries across disciplines, resulting in a seamless, highly efficient process and a truly reimagined final result.

The new Henry Crown Space Center is an immersive journey through the countless lives and inspiring technological advancements that have taken us into space and a glimpse into what the future holds for space exploration. By combining innovative design with interactive education, the exhibit inspires awe and curiosity in visitors of all ages.

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