Architects: Thomas Roszak Architecture
Location: Chicago, USA
Project Year: 2011
Photographs: Scott McDonald © Hedrich Blessing
Completed in June 2011, the new Clark Family Welcome Gallery at Adler Planetarium, Chicago, IL may now be added to the growing list of uniqueand interesting projects of Thomas RoszakArchitecture, LLC. Through smart and collaborative design, Roszak led the team to meetproject goals by creating a multifunctional space that provides a welcoming gathering area while also initiating an exciting pre-show experience necessary in optimizing the planetarium’s main event, the Sky Theater.
In order to do so, Roszak’s team considered creative and innovating ideas, most notably their use of abstract materials and the creation of space that feels different and other-worldly. Using aluminum tubing and polyester fabric constructed walls provided a cost effective alternative while creating a high-impact, and highly dramatic design. Roszak’s team consulted with“fabricologists”, experts in the fabric industry, sorting through thousands of choices before discovering the perfect options. The team didn’t settle until they found a fabric with precise, clean lines embodying the desire for a seamless look.
The result: a smooth textured, pure white fabric with just the right amount of transparency used inboth single and double layers. Most importantly,the fabric had to have the ability to reflect thespace’s LED lighting system, but also absorb light where mixed-media video is projected on the fabric walls.
While learning about their client and astronomy as a whole, traveling through “slices in time” became an apparent fundamental concept. Roszak’s design incorporates this theme by using the carefully selected fabric on walls and surfaces shaped to mimic travel through spacetime. Roszak’s used parametric modeling techniques to design the complex shapes and surfaces of the space. The fabric surrounds the area creating rich, spatial “events” in each section. Roszak layered the fabric in alternating areas creating darker and lighter “slices” along the visitor’s pathway with each section representing a “time slice” in outer space.
Delineated slopes of cascading sheer planes add to the design representing the surface of the present that has recorded an astronomical event over time. Even the design’s floorplan is laid out such that by shifting one’s position in the gallery, the perception of space changes as the voids separate, join, expand, and contract. All of the design effects add to the visitor’s experience of walking from “slice” to “slice” feeling like they are traveling through time in space.
Also included in the space travel theme shown through Roszak’s plan are the many courses of the purposely “bent” shape of the gallery. These paths entice the adventurous explorer to wander along “shortcuts” of the free-flowing space just as a real astronaut would. The purpose of the twists and turns is two-fold since they also create opportunities for a collage of media learning displays. Extensive collaboration with experts in video, animation, sound, and lighting inspired interactive exhibits with layered projected images, motion- detecting light and sound effects, and unusual display technologies around every corner.
Many years of experience and past projects have given Roszak a naturally positive attitude on collaboration, knowing how to bring together individuals who are experts in their fields, and working together to maximize a project’s full potential. Most importantly, Roszak listened to the client and made sure they were involved in every design stage.
Using architecture in a way to incorporate a client’s vision, even the most “out of this world” concepts, can be in the realm of the possible. The architectural and media contributions to the Welcome Gallery immensely enhance guests’ overall experience at Adler Planetarium. Thomas Roszak Architecture, LLC, is proud to have their architectural and design contributions aide in reaching Adler’s ultimate goal of creating an exciting and curiosity-evoking visit sure to create buzz and desire for guests to return for more learning and space exploration!