Museums used to be passive experiences that presented artifacts behind glass. The Brooklyn Children’s Museum wanted to rethink this approach, and hired a young designer, Ed Schlossberg, to do it.
Schlossberg and ESI Design created The Learning Environment, an informal laboratory of participatory exhibits where children discover relationships between themselves and the natural world. Completed in 1977, the award-winning installation was one of the first “hands-on” exhibits in the country and set a standard of interactive excellence that endures today.
The exhibit is divided into four sections based on the four elements: earth, air, fire and water. Within these four areas are 18 interactive science-themed activities that inspire children to ask questions and discover answers through exploration and play. For example, they activate a Giant Wind Machine to create tunes on musical pipes or to run a windmill that powers a water pump. In the Neon Helix People Tube, water and light demonstrate how wavelengths of light can be visualized as different colors. Visitors walk through the tube and the arcs of light change colors, blending from one red arc to two orange arcs, from three green arcs to four blue, and so on.
ESI designed The Learning Environment to change over time based on children’s activities. It is a place where real learning occurs — a place where children are encouraged to make connections for themselves.
Visit the museum’s website at www.brooklynkids.org
"As museums go, the new Brooklyn Children's Museum doesn't exactly conform to type. You go in through an old‐fashioned trolley car kiosk, walk down a ramped culvert of corrugated steel called a 'people tube,' and find yourself in a Rube Goldberg fantasyland of contraptions that seem designed to make busy, happy children even of grown‐ups."
18 interactive activities
1981 Print Casebooks 4 – Certificate of Design Excellence, Exhibition Design