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The Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago and Thinc Design Receive 2012 THEA Award
The Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) has given a prestigious THEA award to You! The Experience , a highly interactive and creative exhibition that celebrates the human mind, body and spirit. The exhibition was designed by Thinc, the award-winning international exhibition design firm, for Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry. Patricia Ward, director of science and technology for exhibits at the Museum, and Tom Hennes, Thinc’s founder and creative director, accepted the award at a ceremony at the 9th Annual TEA Summit on March 17. The two award recipients also gave a presentation about the exhibition during the three-day event.

You! The Experience was a broad-ranging collaboration between the Museum of Science and Industry and Thinc,” said Tom Hennes. He continued, “It eventually grew to involve dozens of specialists on staff in the Museum, outside experts in health and biology, specialty fabricators, and media producers. Many, many people contributed great work to the exhibition and it’s wonderful that the Themed Entertainment Association chose to recognize it with a THEA.”

You! The Experience departs from traditional organizational structures that divide its subject into areas of medical specialization or biological expertise. Instead, by placing its visitors in the center of an exploration of human health and well being, the 15,000 square-foot exhibition is built around the idea of seeing ourselves from different perspectives, such as our future, our beginnings, our appetites, movement, or vitality. Each of these areas provides a multidisciplinary lens in the form of interactive components that visitors can use to investigate an aspect of their being. The exhibition places health into a context of everyday life, offering insight into the choices we make and current information that can affect them. Its goal, as articulated by the Museum, is to “Inspire and engage people to engage constructively with their own and others’ health, through exhibits and programs that broaden self-awareness, build knowledge, and encourage action.”

The exhibition includes historic biological specimens that have been in the Museum’s collection since the 1930s, including a collection of thin body slices preserved in alcohol. It also includes seventeen recently acquired plastinated specimens prepared by the Institute of Plastination (the producer of the immensely popular Body Worlds traveling exhibitions), which offer a glimpse into the profound intricacy and beauty of the human body.

Thinc designed over 50 interactive elements specifically for the exhibition, that engage their users in a spectrum of activities relating to such areas to birth and reproduction, diet, physical activity, social relations, thinking, decision-making, aging, the accumulation of life experience, and medical innovation.

The exhibition is constructed on a large balcony wrapping three sides of the Museum’s huge entrance atrium. Says Hennes, “One of the greatest design challenges was to create a human scale for the experience, while enabling people on the main floor below to see what was on the balcony 25 feet above them.” Thinc’s solution was to develop a clean, open architecture of vertical planes and partial ceilings faced with dynamic supergraphics and edged with glowing, colored light. Hennes continued, “The graphics provide strong visual clues, giving just enough enclosure to help people focus on what they’re doing but always allowing enough visibility around the corner to see what’s coming next.” Thinc collaborated with the Los Angeles-based Hunt Design on the exhibition graphics, and with New York-based Renfro Design Group on the lighting.

The emotional and physical center of You! The Experience is the 13 foot-high, interactive Giant Heart—a dimensional sculpture that incorporates lifelike animation to appear as a living, beating heart. Visitors can grasp a pair of sensors that synchronize the heart to their own heartbeat, while its booming sound—silent to us in our everyday lives—echoes throughout the gallery.

Other unique media driven experiences include a human-sized cardio “hamster wheel,” that shows what happens in the body when we exercise, "Stay Active," which demonstrates how the physically challenged overcome barriers, "Mirror, Mirror," demonstrating the expression and perception of emotions, "Your Appetite," a series of lighthearted interactives about healthy eating choices, “Sleep-O,” a series of animated shorts about sleep projected onto the ceiling and viewed from a giant bed, "iStan," a human patient simulator used for training health professionals in the diagnosis and treatment of critical health issues, and "Face your Future" which captures the guest's image and demonstrates the process of aging. Additionally, the exhibition is supported by rich program of educational programming for guests, students and teachers.

About Thinc Design
Founded in 1992, Thinc Design leads the field in developing and implementing extraordinary exhibitions. The firm strategizes, plans, conceptualizes, designs and builds projects that range from natural history museums, science centers, heritage museums, maritime centers and aquariums, botanical gardens, theme parks and select projects for corporate clients. With new and varied modes of engagement and interaction, Thinc strives to provide visitors with new ways of seeing the world around them, to help stimulate curiosity, awaken feelings, expand their ways of thinking, and ultimately find new meanings and live their lives more richly. The firm has recently completed projects the Steinhart Aquarium at the California Academy of Sciences, The Freedom Park in South Africa, and the Museum of American Folk Art. Thinc is also currently developing the exhibitions for the National September 11 Memorial Museum at the World Trade Center and the Discovery Park of America. Based in New York City, Thinc works throughout the United States and internationally. For more information, go to www.thincdesign.com.


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