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Delivering Sustainable Acoustic Performance at the Science Museum’s new Technician’s Gallery


Creative Industries area of Technicians The David Sainsbury Gallery © Science Museum Group

Charcoalblue is thrilled to have worked as Acoustic Consultant on the Science Museum’s brand-new interactive exhibition Technicians: The David Sainsbury Gallery providing vital acoustic design for this first-of-its-kind immersive exhibition.

Focusing on the extraordinary stories of everyday technicians across a wide range of sectors and roles, highlighting aspects of their lives and jobs, the exhibition aims to inspire the next generation to follow exciting new career paths. Found in the prime location of Level 1 of the Science Museum’s East Hall, the interactive gallery hosts a wide range of interactive displays with audio playback, set inside a spaceframe structure designed by Architects JAC studios. With support from the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, the Technicians Gallery will inspire young people aged 11-16, with content provided by the likes of Marvel, the NHS, and National Grid.

Careers area of Technicians The David Sainsbury Gallery © Science Museum Group

Charcoalblue was presented with a brief to provide localised acoustic interventions that promote speech intelligibility and enhance visitors’ experience, with a key focus on sustainability. The spaceframe itself has been designed in a modular fashion so that parts can be replaced or reused for future exhibitions in different configurations. The materials selected for the project were chosen with sustainability in mind, for their acoustic performance as well as their limited environmental impact.

Fixing a wind turbine interactive in Technicians The David Sainsbury Gallery at the Science Museum © Science Museum Group

Energy Networks area in Technicians The David Sainsbury Gallery at the Science Museum © Science Museum Group

To meet these criteria, Charcoalblue delved into the possibilities of alternative acoustic finishes. After extensive research, we selected recycled PET fibre behind perforated valchromat panels, ensuring a high acoustic performance, a limited equivalent carbon cost, and a safe and durable material for use in a public space, all whilst keeping a relatively slim profile to meet the demands of the spaceframe design.

The project posed further design challenges with The Science Museum’s brief stipulating that the existing building should not be touched. As such, all acoustic finishes had to be highly localised to the spaceframe structure. The transparency of the spaceframe design also meant that as many sightlines as possible across the gallery should be kept open.

“We were delighted to work on this project which, in its museum setting, offered unique design opportunity” said Byron Harrison, Charcoalblue’s Managing Director / Partner responsible for Acoustics. “The Science Museum’s atrium has a reverberation time similar to Bristol Cathedral which, coupled with the sustainability requirements produced complex acoustic consideration.”.

View of entrance to Technicians The David Sainsbury Gallery and the Advanced Manufacturing area © Science Museum Group

Visitors in the careers area in Technicians The David Sainsbury Gallery © Science Museum Group

Visitors try out the lighting technician interactive in Shuri's Lab at Technicians The David Sainsbury Gallery © Science Museum Group

Working closely with JAC Studios, Charcoalblue developed an acoustic panel that provides both sound absorption and sound separation; The placement of each panel in the spaceframe has been specifically chosen to provide the most effective sound separation approach, whilst limiting the total number of panels required, from both a visual and cost perspective.

The gallery will bring the vital but often-unseen world of technicians to life, giving visitors the opportunity to discover inspirational stories, explore 100 varied technician roles and try one-of-a-kind interactive exhibits which mimic the tasks that different technicians perform each day. Technicians: The David Sainsbury Gallery opens to the public on Thursday 3rd November 2022.

A visitor looks at illustrations of technicians at work in Technicians The David Sainsbury Gallery © Science Museum Group

Design Team

Exhibition Designer - JAC Studios

Project Manager - Fraser Randall

Services Engineers - Chapman BDSP

Lighting Designer - For the Love of Light

AV Integrator - Electrosonic

Principal Designer - Goddard Consulting

Cost Consultant - Gardiner and Theobald

Production and Installation - Factory Settings

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John Owens is a Charcoalblue Partner responsible for our North American practice.

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