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The First Light Pavilion at Jodrell Bank

Immersive, interactive technologies and complex project mapping celebrate the birth of radio astronomy.

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INTRODUCTION

The First Light Pavilion is a spectacular new exhibition space at the Jodrell Bank visitor center in northwest England - the site where scientists discovered and developed radio astronomy.

The immersive exhibition tells the history of radio astronomy and its impact on knowledge of the universe through video, audio, complex projection mapping, multi-touch displays, special effects and interactive exhibits that trigger content projected onto a ‘Radio Sky’. The exhibition also celebrates the pioneering work of Sir Bernard Lovell who developed the world’s first radio telescope, using actual sections of his original telescope as major elements of the whole exhibition structure and creative projection surfaces.

Electrosonic initially worked with designers Casson Mann to design the technical aspects of the exhibition and then worked in partnership with fitout contractors Realm Projects, to deliver the audiovisual, physical network infrastructure and control system design, build and system integration for an exhibition space that brings Jodrell Bank’s vision to life.

Photography by ©Hufton+Crow

OVERVIEW

The First Light exhibition consists of six spaces, known as ‘chapters’ that tell different aspects of the story. ‘Ways of Seeing’ introduces radio astronomy with interactive exhibits that explain the concept of Chromascope frequencies and a fun children’s exhibit, See like a snake.

The second chapter tells the story of Bernard Lovell through a touchscreen ‘family album’, an interactive touchscreen explaining his work in radar, while audio highlights his love of music. A child’s mechanical exhibit triggers trigger a projected spark when they turn a handle. The Fairground looks back at the early days of Jodrell Bank using a projected model surrounded by five interactive screens to show growth. Another interactive explains the concept of Interferometry.

The next chapter describes the challenges of building the first telescope. Visitors can explore the evolution of the design on an interactive touchscreen, view a projected recreation of Lovell’s desk or listen to audio describing construction. In the Miracle of Sputnik chapter, visitors can drive a telescope by using touchscreen controls, or explore the work of the telescope during the Cold War on an interactive Log Book. The final chapter, Impact of Jodrell Bank, features a Conversation Table touchscreen exhibit where visitors can select discussions on its impact and a Visitor Quiz that triggers projected images when answers are correct.

When visitors explore the interactive exhibits, they trigger images and special effects that are projected onto concave ‘shards’ from the original telescope.

CHALLENGE

The major challenge was creating complex mapped projections on concave surfaces floating in a domed ceiling. Content, triggered when visitors interact with exhibits, is projected onto 13 large sections from the original telescope. At set times, the separate sections come together to create a single, seamless image – the ‘Radio Sky’.

This required precise positioning of 17 projectors, complex configuration and integration of video servers, projectors and interactive exhibits, precise layering of projected content and sophisticated control systems.

SOLUTION

Electrosonic worked closely with Casson Mann throughout the development phase to design the complex technical systems. After developing the winning audiovisual tender in collaboration with Realm Projects, Electrosonic’s engineering team further developed the technical design. Skilled audiovisual design, 3D modeling and large-scale mockups ensured the projection mapping solution would deliver the creative vision. The systems are designed for reliable operation over 25 years and Electrosonic has the teams in place to provide support in the future.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Electrosonic’s experience in developing projection and control systems for mapping content on complex surfaces helped create the stunning spectacle known as the ‘Radio Sky’. Our ability to collaborate with partners from initial concept to handover ensured continuity and delivered a seamless solution that was achievable, reliable and maintainable. The result is a spectacular, fun, immersive space that is a fitting tribute to Jodrell Bank’s proud heritage.

Project Details

Client
Jodrell Bank
Partner
Casson Mann, Realm Projects, Squint Opera, ISO, DHA
Location
Cheshire, United Kingdom
Size
8000 square feet
Services
Technology Design Consulting
Build & System Integration
Technology Master Planning™
AV & Control System Design
Physical Network Infrastructure Design
CAD & BIM Modeling & Engineering
Installation & Integration
Commissioning & Programming
The stunning new building, its exciting exhibition and an incredibly diverse and inclusive engagement programme, will all have a fantastic impact, delighting and inspiring every visitor.
Eilish McGuinness
CEO, The National Lottery Heritage Fund
Interactive Exploration Multiple interactive displays tell the story of radio astronomy and trigger content that is projection-mapped on the domed ceiling.
Radio Sky Fifteen concave sections from the original radio telescope form an innovative surface known as the ‘Radio Sky’ for complex projection mapping.
Immersive Experience In this highly immersive exhibition, visitors can experience the thrill of a meteor shower, crawl into a black hole and even try ‘driving’ a radio telescope.

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