Science World’s iconic, geodesic dome from Expo ’86 is a well-known Vancouver landmark. And with approximately 700,000 visitors a year, the science centre is one of its most popular attractions.
Science World offers experiential learning in a variety of galleries and circulation spaces with different themes that require a unique look and feel. Good design is key to creating a positive experience for visitors, and material choice is equally important in creating spaces that offer long term performance with enhanced flexibility.
Jodie Braaten, senior exhibition designer for Science World, oversees and manages the design of exhibition and gallery spaces throughout the building. Galleries range from the quieter, focused learning in the natural history and tinkering spaces to the higher energy, interactive experience in the Eureka physics gallery. Jodie says, “When I’m designing the galleries, it’s important to me that they look and feel different.
We don’t change flooring very often because it’s quite an undertaking. So, I’m always looking for versatility in the products I’m selecting to have a lot of design flexibility.”
Because of the museum’s complex structure, she first considers the flow of visitors as they travel throughout the space. She says, “Flooring is essential to me because I’m creating direction and highlighting specific areas of the galleries through pattern and color. It’s subliminal in a way, using design to lead them in a certain direction and draw sight lines to different areas.”
As illustration, Jodie recalls the impact of changing the flooring in the second circulation space. It’s a large space, and she advocated for years to convince people it was worth the sizable investment of replacing it. The original installation was sheet goods, and the flooring couldn’t be selectively replaced to hide more than a decade’s worth of wear and tear. A longtime fan of nora® rubber, Jodie chose nora’s modular flooring for this replacement so that individual tiles could be swapped out as needed to keep the new floor looking good longer.
And the result? “To change the flooring is everything,” Jodie says. “People really ‘got it’ once they saw it installed. You can view the space from above, and people could see that the patterns and colors I chose—as well as how the tiles were installed—created movement and flow in the space.”
Experience has made nora a first choice for her. She says, “Designing with nora has made my life a lot easier. I entertained looking at other rubber flooring, but I could never find the right color and finish. I can always find something in nora’s product line.”
Where there are a lot of children, there is a lot of noise. Because Science World encourages playful exploration and their largest visiting demographic is children, mitigating noise throughout the space is important.
Jodie explains, “The acoustic values in all our spaces are so important because of the number of visitors that are school age and younger. We’ll have several groups running through the museum at times, and some galleries are smaller than others. The sound absorptive qualities of the nora rubber and Interface carpet tile definitely help minimize noise throughout.”
All in a Day’s Work
With an average of 2,000 visitors a day and a maximum capacity of 5,000, Science World puts its flooring to the test. Color and patterning are important, but Jodie also specifies nora and Interface carpet tile because of their durability and ease of maintenance.
“I’d rather have a quality product that lasts a very long time,” she says. “It’s a big investment, and as a nonprofit, it’s not one we can easily revisit in a few years.” nora installations are known to last decades and are easily maintained. The previous flooring required frequent waxing and stripping, which was both time consuming and expensive. nora simply requires water and nora scrubbing pads. And Jodie adds that “nora’s technical support team has been a big plus. They met with the cleaning crew after installation, and they’ve come back a few times over the years.”
“Designing with nora has made my life a lot easier. I entertained looking at other rubber flooring, but I could never find the right color and finish. I can always find something in nora’s product line.” – Jodie Braaten, senior exhibition designer, Science World
The Interface carpet tiles installed at Science World have also fared well. In fact, during a recent renovation, Jodie was able to repurpose the Interface tiles and use them elsewhere. She states, “The wear and tear on the carpet is perfect in the sense that it doesn’t even look worn. It has held up so well, and it’s easy to maintain. When I do have to pick carpet, which is not often, I still default to Interface. I have to say that my experience working with Interface and nora has been fantastic over the years. There are always great reps that are there to support every need you have, and they’re there to see it to the finished end.”