Structure in Exhibits

A couple of weeks ago, Facebook reminded me of what my status update was a year ago. Being the sentimental and nostalgic guy that I am, I was reminded of a trip to St. Louis, Missouri, that I took with my family at the same time last year. I decided to go back and look at the pictures to relive the good times and to see how much my hair line had changed in twelve months.

As with most of my family vacation photo files, I have more pictures of signs and exhibits than I do of my children. I get to see my children every day. I may not ever have a chance to see a great use of a complementary color palette at a museum in Missouri ever again. It also keeps your kids’ egos in check by letting them know that it is not all about them.

While browsing through the images I came across a few images that I haven’t shared before of a really cool exhibit featuring the architecture of the Gateway Arch. The exhibit is not at the arch itself but at the St. Louis Science Center.

Here are some images and thoughts.

The design of this structures exhibit was clean and architectural in nature. I love how the materials echo raw materials of a construction site. Even the justified text could represent building blocks. Of course it could have been designed by someone who likes squares, but I think it was purposeful.

These panels continue the consistent message presented on the orientation sign. The concept is expanded with the blueprint-type symbols and open-ended question approach. Of course this is enough to bore my children to death (though death by type is underrated). This was the option that really inspired them…

These pillow building blocks allow children to practice what it takes to build an arch. You will notice that Anna (in the middle) is restraining her younger brother William (the destroyer) so we could get the picture of the complete arch.

This is not related to the structure exhibit, but I just had to share it. I’m not sure what incident led up to the creation of this sign but it was warranted, trust me. Do you have any ideas?

Missouri Compromise-Experience 3

Editors Note: This post is the third post in a three-part series that revolves around three distinct interpretive experiences that my family and I had on a recent trip to Missouri.

I have a history of losing my children (Gracie, Disney World, Orlando, FL 9.11.2008; William, Field Museum Chicago, IL 8.10.2009, Anna, TBD). It is amazing how quickly it can happen. One minute, I’m watching the entire Star Wars series back to back to back to back to back to back and the next thing I know my children are nowhere to be found.

Citygarden St. Louis is the perfect place to lose your children. One minute I’m taking pictures of pink signs and the next thing I know my children are in a fountain swimming. At this park it is okay to swim in the fountains (well this one was closed, but they are open at various times to children for splashing, playing, and swimming). In fact it is encouraged. The only problem I have with this feature is that from now on it will be my job to convince my children that it is not okay to swim in water fountains.

Sometimes it is good to get lost yourself, especially in the middle of a large city like St. Louis. Green space is a premium in urban areas and Citygarden has a prime location in the Gateway Arch Mall. The garden is beautiful (with a collection of native plants representing natural regions of Missouri), has unique features (representing geographic regions of Missouri), has multiple purposes, attracts a diverse audience, and uses interpretation to help visitors find meaning in its purpose. What more can you ask for in an interpretive site? Okay, maybe a hot wings stand.

I love public pieces of art, especially when it is okay for you to interact with them. I really appreciate the background information and interpretation provided in the visitors’ guide to the garden. When I opened the map box, I expected it to be empty since so many publication boxes that I encounter are found that way. This one wasn’t, and even better the quality design of the brochure and map added interest in finding and understanding all of the park’s sculptures. Knowing the thoughts of the artist when creating the pieces really helps you appreciate the artwork.

It is the little things that matter, especially with only three acres making up Citygarden. Even the backs of the signs and exhibits are thematic and carry the design elements. Much like a well-quaffed mullet, the front is all business (as much business as you can get in pink and blue) and says “No Parking!” and the back is all party and says “Yay, aren’t you happy you are at Citygarden and not at work?” The interpretive designers that created these signs have just hired someone to whack me because of that analogy. Well if they think that one is bad wait until they hear the next one in the follwing paragraph.

The attention to detail to the back of the signs reminds me of Deputy Barney Fife on the Andy Griffith Show polishing the backs of his shoes because that’s the last thing people will see and remember about you. That may be the worst analogy in IBD history and the last thing you read and remember about me.

I would interpret what I learned about this piece of art but to keep from sounding like an idiot will refrain. The artwork in the garden is awesome.

I have never seen a better use of a jumbotron in my life. This one is used for showing videos, documentaries, special features, art films, commercial films, and Cardinals’ games. When one of these is not showing a real-time digital camera allows children (and adults with children who always wanted to be featured on the jumbotron at major League Baseball game, preferably in an American League stadium found in New York) create their own performance art. The current films don’t go un-interpreted either. The box on the far right of the picture has a flat with information about what you are watching.

The most popular part of the garden is the spray plaza that has 102 jets shooting water as high as ten feet in the air, changing colors, and patterns while children and adults alike splash around in them.

Citygarden is a great mixture of art, design, water, and interpretation with a healthy dose of whimsy. Don’t forget to polish the backs of your shoes.