£1.1m redevelopment set to open summer 2020 thanks to major grant from Biffa Award
Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium, an independent educational charity on a mission to excite children in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), is set to relaunch its visitor experience in July 2020, having successfully secured full funding for a £1.1m redevelopment plan Inspiring Science for All.
Biffa Award, a multimillion pound fund that helps to build communities and transform lives through awarding grants to communities and environmental projects across the UK, completes the Science Centre’s fundraising target with a grant of £292,400.
“Thanks to Biffa Award we are now in a position to turn our dream into reality and create an accessible and inclusive Science Centre experience that every child can enjoy.” said Ben Ward, CEO of Winchester Science Centre. “Following completion of the first phase of the project, the installation of a new accessible planetarium in June and Changing Places toilet in October 2019, we are now embarking on the total transformation of the upper floor of our two-storey site. This includes a brand new multi-sensory exhibition, a re-designed welcome area, café and shop, and the creation of a sensory room, live science demo area and invention studio.”
Gillian French, Biffa Award Head of Grants, said: “It is great to know that the funding we have awarded to Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium through Biffa Award will help to fuel imaginations, spark interest and create a passion for STEM subjects among our next generation of scientists, technicians, engineers and mathematicians. We can’t wait to see this exciting project when it is completed in 2020 – it really will help to transform lives.”
Experienced exhibition fabricators and project management organisation, The Moule Partnership Ltd (TMP), has won the contract to deliver the construction and installation of the project. The design however is being led by internationally renowned exhibition and narrative designer, Houghton Kneale Design Ltd (HKD), who will bring the Science Centre’s vision to life.
“We share the Science Centre’s ambition to create inclusive experiences.” said Kate Kneale, Director of HKD. “We bring a creative multi-disciplinary team to the project, with vast experience in delivering major exhibitions and interactive experiences. We were excited by the challenge set by the Science Centre, to create an accessible, multi-sensory exhibition and experience that would delight its visitors and spark their curiosity in STEM. Our design is as much about visitor wellbeing as it is about their interaction and learning experience.”
Ben Ward says the initial concept designs presented by HKD delivered on ‘wow’ and pushed the boundaries of the project in a really exciting and unexpected way. “We had identified the areas for development but HKD responded with the total reordering and design of the upper floor and we loved it. The repositioning of the Invention Studio to the far corner of the building has created a seamless link to the outside, and all the exciting possibilities this brings. They’ve introduced a central live science demo area which can be viewed from both the upper and lower level, adding drama and surprise to every visit. This isn’t a new exhibition, it’s a relaunch of our Science Centre!”
The exhibition will be centred on sound, hearing and vibration and cover all aspects of STEM. Peter Rogers, Director of Sustainable Acoustics, who has provided acoustic consultancy throughout the project development, said: “Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium is a striking building, a huge white pyramid surrounded by the rolling hills of the South Downs National Park, but its construction of concrete, steel and glass presents acoustic challenges. Throughout the design stages we have been looking for innovative solutions to improve ambient noise and by doing so enhance visitor experience.”
To ensure the design stays true to the Science Centre’s guiding principle ‘no decision about me, without me’, the concepts are being stress-tested for accessibility and fun via two consultation panels: an Accessibility Advisory Panel, individuals who represent a wide range of disability and impairment, and a Young Persons’ Steering Group, children aged 8 – 12 representing the Science Centre’s primary user.
The Science Centre welcomes in the region of 180,000 visitors each year, including over 40,000 school visitors. Through its hands-on exhibition, planetarium and people-led science experiences it aims to spark curiosity and build young people’s confidence and aspirations in STEM.
Support for the project has also come from Enterprise M3 LEP, Garfield Weston Foundation, Hampshire County Council and Winchester City Council as well as additional grants, private donations and support given in kind.
The Science Centre and Planetarium will remain open throughout the development, which is predicted to take six weeks starting the first week of June. During this period, visitors will have access to the lower exhibition floor, live science show space and planetarium.
Further information about the development plans and launch will be announced in the New Year, but the Science Centre has confirmed the new experience will open to the public in July 2020, in time for the summer holiday. A programme of celebratory events to mark a new era for the charity will also be announced.