North Carolina’s new science exhibit encourages learning with colorful fabric signage.
By Bruce N. Wright
A new exhibit at the Charlotte, N.C.-based Discovery Place science museum called “World Alive” celebrates the incredible biodiversity of earth. Key to helping visitors navigate their way through the exhibit’s hands-on labs and galleries is a series of overhead ribbons of digitally printed fabric signs identifying each major area. These undulating, curved forms—covered in vibrant printed graphics and of various lengths, several over 35 feet long—provide distinctive signage and wayfinding elements that guide museum visitors through the whole exhibit. Stationed in front of the various exhibit areas, the banners—designed, printed and installed by Eventscape Inc., Toronto—create a current of movement, automatically drawing visitors through the spaces to discover each new topic.
The eight ribbon banners are a minor, but important part of the program by the architect and masterplan design firm Cambridge Seven Associates to update and invigorate the museum to enhance visitor experimentation and learning, and to re-establish Discovery Place’s international reputation for innovative programs and exhibits. The placement and curves of each of the sinuous banner forms was site specific, so coordination by Eventscape with the renovation general contractor was critical, as some of the site dimensions and plans changed over the course of the project. Moreover, developing the graphic path for these vibrant prints was complex because the text needed to be in a straight line within the curved forms.
On-site measurements and digital photos were taken to determine the correct dimensions and curves of the frames. Eventscape used Illustrator and Photoshop to model the textile surface of each banner with a reference line for the text. The graphic template was flattened and mapped directly from the actual frame model. From there the graphic was manipulated to follow the horizontal plane required.
The banners are 3.5 feet wide and range in length from 28 feet to 47 feet long and were dye-sub printed on a 120-inch-wide Gandi Jeti printer on EP-429 poplin. Coordination between the contractor, the design firm and Eventscape allowed for adjustments to be made prior to final fabrication.
Following the renovation, the museum’s annual survey reported that Discovery Place ranked as the most-visited museum and historic attraction in the Charlotte region, securing its place as one of the top science and technology museums in the United States.