This fall, after a $ 55 million renovation, Rockwell’s interior design, exhibit design, orientation, experiential graphics and tech installations for TO COME UP helped revive the grand building as part of the Smithsonian’s 175th anniversary commemoration. Presented from November 20, 2021 to July 6, 2022, the exhibit showcases 150 artifacts (including speculative designs, interactive installations, and several technological inventions and experiments) in the 32,000 square feet of newly renovated space at the AIB. “We knew from the start that we wanted a show full of hope,” says Goslins. “We have so much help these days imagining what could go wrong and not so much what could go right.”
Some objects, such as Alexander Graham Bell’s experimental telephone from 1876, were requisitioned from the historical collections of 19 other Smithsonian museums. Others are making their public debut, such as futuristic machines like Alphabet Inc.’s Mineral crop-monitoring rover and site-specific artificial intelligence and augmented reality-based art installations from architect Suchi Reddy and by artist Tamiko Thiel.
While designing the exhibit, which included months spent in the capital studying the building, Rockwell was also finishing his new book on the links between theatrical design and architecture, titled Drama (Phaïdon, 2021). Some conceptual overlap is appropriate. “This is such a unique and beautiful unicorn on the Smithsonian campus,” says Rockwell.
“It’s not a blank canvas,” Goslins adds, noting that “it has that strong 19th-century personality, with 984 windows, slender arches, and prehistoric granite terrazzo flooring, complete with dozens of old fossils. million years “.
None of this could be touched by Rockwell’s interventions. “We couldn’t drill into the floor, tie anything to the walls or hang anything from the ceiling,” says the architect. Instead, he and his team brought traditional structures inspired by World’s Fair into the 21st century by constructing state-of-the-art freestanding pavilions inside each of the building’s wings.
“We started by designing the show not as we wanted see, but how we wanted to experience it emotionally, ”says Rockwell. The building’s decentralized circulation route begins in the north hall, where a diagonal series of low plinths covered with recycled newspaper allow the visitor to wander. A distant LED panel illuminates the title of the show, with just enough space between the E and S allow a
to literally walk into the future. But from there it’s up to visitors to make their own way. “We wanted to create circulation that encourages investigation,” he says. And like progress itself, “it’s non-linear”.
In the southern wooden hall Futures that unite pavilion, the projects address how people can better interact with each other for a more inclusive world. The work includes a custom-made artificial limb maker by Baltimore start-up Danae as well as Ai Hasegawa’s (Im) possible Baby, a speculative design project aimed at sparking a dialogue about emerging biotechnologies that could enable couples to any gender to have genetically related children.
To bring together such disparate ideas, Rockwell’s team came up with rituals of gathering. The result is a pavilion showcasing a flexible blend of Japanese carpentry and balloon framing that is anchored with bold hues of renewable carpet made by Shaw. “We did a lot of sketching models with the curators to figure out how the material might reinforce the story,” says Rockwell.
BIG-designed Virgin Hyperloop Pegasus makes its first public appearance in West Hall’s Futures that work pavilion, serving as an example of a fair future where zero emission transport is both possible and available.
Rockwell designed a set of solar voltaic PVC films that frame the pavilion like stage curtains, and the objects are placed among vertical displays made from recyclable dichroic resin. “We have created a weak [self-illuminating] wall that offers a hardware solution, ”says Rockwell, highlighting a winding path of mycelium brick pedestals for innovations like Hypergiant’s Eos bioreactor, which beats a tree’s carbon capture by a factor of 400.
the one on the east wing Futures that inspire is made of 12 inch by 12 inch steel wire cubes with integrated LEDs. “It’s all about play and adventure,” Rockwell says of the structure, part building block and part theatrical light rig, reminiscent of the Bell phone with a Bell Aerospace rocket belt show. , better known as the jetpack, and the Bell Nexus electric autonomous taxi, better known as the flying car. “It’s something everyone has fantasized about their entire lives,” says Rockwell.
Proof of Progress seeks to create a moment, as Goslins puts it, “to give people space to think about the future they want and not just the future they fear.” As for the future of AIB itself, only time will tell. When TO COME UP will close next summer, the AIB could also close again, or it could be integrated into the recently announced National Museum of the American Latino or the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum. Whatever the fate of the building, let’s hope its optimism continues.