Studio Matthews with Olson Kundig Architects
Bezos Center for Innovation
Museum of History & Industry
Bezos Center for Innovation
Both of our runners-up beat out the competition despite a certain amount of prejudice. The prejudice in this case was against such a lavishly funded project with a large team behind it, but the truth is that many expensive and expansive projects turn out badly, and this one looks truly both engaging and beautiful. – Marian Bantjes
I had to fully defer to the others because I could not feel this at all. Without a sense of immersion it was hard for me to judge. On the surface it seemed like so many interactive displays I’ve seen written about before and it probably had the world’s largest budget to boot. – Mark Mushet
This looked like a really interest, engaging project for a subject that generally would be of no interest to me. I thought they did an excellent job of making something … I hate to say this, but yes, innovative without a lot of physical artifacts to start with. – Shelley Gruendler
You would expect that a healthy budget for design would guarantee success, but this is certainly not always the case. In this instance, that budget was used to create an incredibly fresh package of interactive displays to describe the complex concept of innovation. The multitude of approaches designed to tell that story are themselves seamless with the content. It is a brilliant and engaging execution. – Paul Roelofs
Bezos Center for Innovation
The Bezos Center for Innovation is a 5,000 square foot exhibition dedicated to the theme of innovation. Its mission is to educate visitors about Seattle’s creative history and ignite the innovator within.2. The Brief: Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the context for the project, and what was the challenge posed to you?
Seattle’s Museum of History & Industry, together with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, wanted to create a Center for Innovation that would both celebrate the region’s reputation for global innovation and also get young people inspired to “think big.”
We were brought on board by 3-d designers Olson Kundig Architects to help build exciting stories that would engage the visitor on many levels. There were very few objects to work with, so a big part of our role was combining type, image, graphic illustrations and lighting to create big impact in a limited space.
Visitors might associate the name “The Museum of History and Industry” (where the Bezos Center for Innovation is housed) with dusty stories and old news. We felt it was very important to use strong color, crisp and contemporary type and playful illustration to place the exhibition squarely in the here-and-now. This was especially important for engaging young people, who are a target audience of the experience.
We pushed every exhibit to be as immersive as possible; for example we took an idea for a linear timeline and expanded it to fill an entire room with a sea of circular light boxes.
In another area, we expanded an idea for a series of small, tri-sided turning displays and expanded it to a billboard-sized interactive display with layered texts and images.
In Idea Lab, visitors can build, write and post challenges (problems that need solving) and innovative solutions.
Early in the content development process, MOHAI reached out to one of the most respected history professors in the region, Prof. Margaret O’Mara (at the University of Washington) to delve deep into the history of innovation in the Seattle region. She worked with a team of graduate students at the UW to uncover original stories and unique content which informed the entire exhibition. MOHAI also holds one of the richest photo and artifact collections in the state, and their staff and consultants added hugely to the process.
MOHAI’s education team contributed testing and input throughout the process to guide the content and make sure that it would appeal to the families, schools and other youth groups that would be served by the Center.
A separate team interviewed and filmed top Seattle innovators, and their insights are integrated throughout the experience on interactive screens.
Studio Matthews worked very closed throughout development with Olson Kundig Architects on the physical interactives that help make the space unique: hand-cranks turn a Patent Tree, and elsewhere turn billboards and illuminate hidden messages. Ideas can be built and photographed in Idea Lab, and posted within the exhibit and to social media.
The Center for Innovation has boosted attendance to the Museum of History & Industry, which had already quadrupled its annual visitor numbers with a shift to a new, high profile location late in 2012. Countless school groups continue to visit the Center, and integrate learning around “innovative thinking” as a result.
At the opening of the Bezos Center for Innovation in fall of 2013, hundreds of local school kids were invited as special “first guests” to the Center. They participated in a lively Q&A session with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who spoke honestly about his own childhood, and those teachers and family members who inspired him to later become a global innovator.
The greatest role that the Center for Innovation plays is not just in celebrating those innovations that make our lives better, but allowing young people to see that the best ideas are waiting to be developed, and that they can become the Next Big Thing.