Arup develops ‘symbolic gift for the future’ with immersive exhibition on Antarctica


The Glasgow Science Center showcase merges science, art and engineering, according to the consulting firm and features polar ice from 1765.

As the COP26 climate conference kicks off, Arup has teamed up with the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and Royal College of Art doctoral student Wayne Binitie to develop an exhibition at the Glasgow Science Center.

Polar Zero aims to connect people with Antarctica – a place that Graham Dodd says is often difficult for people to visualize because it is so remote. By creating a tangible link between Glasgow and the southernmost part of our planet, he hopes that greater awareness can be brought about how the world could protect it.

“Appreciate the human reactions in such a dramatic part of the world”

There are two sections to the exhibit according to Dodd, and Arup designed these spaces as well as technical support for major exhibits.

The first section is titled Ice Stories. As people approach and walk away from the main part of the exhibit, they are confronted with quotes based on first-hand accounts from Antarctic explorers and scientists.

“The idea here was to allow visitors to read the words of these people and appreciate their human reactions in such a dramatic part of the world,” says Dodd. These wall graphics are intended to “set the tone” for the remainder of the exhibition, he explains.

“A very calm and contemplative space”

As they move further into the exhibit, visitors enter an “egg-shaped room,” says Dodd. This room houses the two main focal points of the exhibition – sculptural pieces that combine the art, design and science of RCA student Wayne Binitie.

Since this is the main part of the exhibit, Dodd explains that the design approach was to make the space feel “very separate” from the surrounding museum.

To do this, the interior room was soundproofed, with draped walls and an acoustic floor installed. “We wanted it to be a very quiet and contemplative space,” says Dodd.

This, he says, creates a “natural canvas” and helps contain a soundscape of “sounds of ice” recorded on the Antarctic continent by Binitie. This is mixed with the music of Maurice Ravel in a composition.

Beyond the soundscape, Arup further defined the room as “separate” with very low lighting. “There is enough lighting to ensure that people can navigate the space safely, but other than that we wanted the only light to come from the two sculptural pieces,” says Dodd.

Wayne Binitie at the exhibition


Binitie’s sculptures are called Ice Cores and 1765. He worked with Arup and BAS to develop them. Both are presented in large cylinders, which Dodd says were designed to capture the imagination of visitors.

1765 encloses a sample of air extracted from an Antarctic ice core. As the name suggests, the kernel was mined in 1765 – a date that BAS says predates the Industrial Revolution – and has been kept ever since.

You can see old air bubbles trapped inside the sample

Dodd says the intention was to attract people to the tiny bubbles that exist inside the ice – these bubbles are themselves crucial data points and their analysis can tell scientists a lot about atmospheric conditions. tens of thousands of years ago.

Ice carrots

While 1765 is meant to evoke a sense of permanence, Dodd says Ice Cores is a study of impermanence. The more interactive of the two sculptures, the installation allows visitors to literally feel the melting of the polar ice caps.

Ice Cores aims to bring visitors face to face with the Antarctic landscape

The sculpture features an ice core, drilled from the Antarctic continent, and its glass casing has been partially removed so that visitors can connect with the ice and the water it melts as it melts. “It’s a really interesting experience, to touch and engage with something so far,” he says.

Dodd said that working on the two sculptures was a logistical and technical challenge, but that the challenges seemed to be a good metaphor for the larger issues occurring at the polar ice caps.

“The more we tried to calculate things like how long it would take for our ice core to melt, the more we realized how difficult it was to predict,” he says. “And that was only for a small piece of ice – the problem is magnified thousands of times over for the rest of Antarctica.”

“It’s a man-made phenomenon”

Polar Zero opens to the public this week as part of the Glasgow Science Museum’s program of events marking COP26 and its status under the conference’s “green zone”.

According to the museum, the green zone is a place where “the public, civil society, indigenous peoples, youth groups, charities, academics, artists and businesses” can make their voices heard.

For this particular exhibition, Binitie says he hopes that “people who experience these works will better understand the impact of humanity on the natural environment and its climate systems.”

Dodd adds: “I hope this experience invites people to consider that this is a man-made phenomenon – and the amount of knowledge about our own history that is at stake with the melting ice caps. .

For more information on Polar Zero from the COP26 Green Zone, including opening times, visit Glasgow Science Center website.


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