In January 2015, Vanke China Group engaged Blue Rhino Design to design a 9,000 square foot indoor children’s discovery centre within a new shopping mall in Guangzhou, China. In a very compressed time period, the Blue Rhino Design team created innovative, open-ended experiences for children from toddler-age up to 12 years old. The project consists of 20 bilingual exhibits organized in nine themed clusters. Exhibits include a water table, a robot demonstration, a music studio, a Lego Mindstorms workshop, and a build-your-own roller coaster exhibit. The exhibits are designed to provide children with the opportunity to learn through play.
Blue Rhino Design enjoyed the opportunity of becoming conversant with Chinese design styles and aesthetics. Principles of Feng Shui strongly influence ideas of what is attractive design in China. For instance, curved sweeping lines are preferred over hard edges. Colour choices are also heavily influenced by culture. Finally, the content had to be meaningful for children growing up in south China. As designers, we learned the visual language of the culture in which we were working and ensured that the entire exhibition stayed true to the people of south China.
In the research and writing process, we were mindful of the exhibition’s audience. The text had to be simple enough for adults whose first language may not be English, must translate well into Chinese, and could not carry unintended meaning. As well it was important that the message of each exhibit not inadvertently carry a North American or European bias.
The Blue Rhino Design team met with representatives from Vanke China Group in order to understand their objectives for the discovery centre, as well as to learn about the Chinese education system. This requirements gathering provided the basis for the interpretive plan. This process also allowed Blue Rhino Design to ensure that the exhibition’s design complemented the formal education system by providing an informal adjunct to the curriculum that Chinese children get at school.
The fabrication was handled by three firms: one from Germany and two from China. Although this made managing the project more complicated, it provided our client with the best possible value by leveraging the strengths of each of these companies. In the end, we ensured that the fabrication was done in a fashion where the visitor would never know that the exhibits were made by three different firms.