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1 | The Prince Salman Science Oasis in Riyadh, architecture by Gerber Architekten International

Science Communication in Riyadh: The Prince Salman Science Oasis TRIAD Berlin Projektgesellschaft mbH The Prince Salman Science Oasis is the consequent continuation of the ancient and rich history of science in the Arab world.

One cannot imagine the history of occidental science without

The PSSO is a science center project in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi

the impressive contributions of Arab scholars. Astronomy,

Arabia, designed by a consortium of Saudi and German compa-

mathematics, and geometry, in their modern outlook, were

nies under the direction of the Arriyadh Development Author-

founded in the Arab Middle Ages and later “exported” to Euro-

ity (ADA). The project is supported by various Saudi sponsors,

pean universities where they evolved further. The Prince Sal-

including the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology

man Science Oasis (PSSO) is based on the curiosity of Arab

(KACST), the Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC), the

scholars over the ages and the profound roots of science in the

Saudi Telecom Company (STC), Saudi Aramco, and ACWA Hold-

Arab tradition. It shows their wide variety of interests as an atti-

ing. The science center houses seven exhibition galleries, a mul-

tude of active involvement, a fascination in confronting the

tipurpose theater, a science park, shops, laboratories, and a cen-

real world that can serve as an example for today’s generations.

tral hall with a food court and temporary exhibition areas. TRIAD Berlin was commissioned to design four of the seven exhibition galleries. Each of these galleries approaches a different topic: space, earth, water, and technology.

Special Topics | Science Communication in Riyadh: The Prince Salman Science Oasis 92 | 93

2 | Space: View into the Space Gallery with planet system and spaceship

Project intention Protecting the natural foundations of life is a responsibility

newest developments in exhibition design and contemporary

inherent to all human action. Its fulfillment is fostered by

science center standards. The first concept structure was pre-

knowledge about the world and by the diverse approaches to

sented in early 2011, followed by several workshops and plan-

communicate that knowledge. The PSSO is imparting the fasci-

ning phases on site. An experienced and accomplished staff of

nation of a technological and scientific appropriation of the

Saudi consultants was employed to align the project develop-

world. It combines an engaging overall narration with special

ment with current standards both technically and contentwise.

exhibitions that are ambitious on an emotional as well as a didactic level. Elements of both content and design are

Engaging in the content: the four galleries

employed to provide an astonishing and unique overall experience. Each exhibition offers an individual adventure that will

Inside the science center, the visitors are invited to dwell in var-

leave the visitors with long-lasting impressions in terms of

ious engaging and inspiring installations and interactive expe-

both didactic purposes and personal experience.

Intercultural cooperation: connecting two cultures

riences. Every gallery has a central icon that is the highlight exhibit and centerpoint of the narration. While the room stimulates the visitors’ senses and attracts their attention visually, the carefully selected interactive exhibits communicate different topics in an easily understandable and fun way that leaves

Throughout the whole development and concept phase, the

room for discovery and intuitive comprehension of complex

project team was being consulted by Saudi experts to make

relations and content.

sure that the concept was thematically coherent, scientifically

The design concept offers a dramaturgy for the entire PSSO,

correct and considerate of religious and traditional concerns,

embedding the galleries in one narrative, zooming in through

and the content was in perfect alignment with Saudi Arabia’s

the dimensions of time and space. Each gallery sets a smaller

rich historical and cultural background. The process of developing the project started with several visits to Riyadh. In late 2010, together with our client we set out on a “learning journey“ throughout Europe to experience some of the benchmark science centers and get an impression of the

focus—from the eternity of our universe at the beginning to the microcosm of atoms and molecules at the very end—and thus, lets the visitor “grow” from tiny to giant.

3 | Earth: Bird’s-eye view on the hemisphere, central icon of the Earth Gallery

SPACE exploring the infinite universe

EARTH our fascinating home planet

The Space Gallery is designed to mirror the infinite universe. The

After travelling into space, the visitors are approaching earth:

richly decorated exhibition space creates the illusion of a space

Our beautiful planet is the central icon of the Earth Gallery. The

eight times as large as its actual size. The walls are covered by a

visitors’ path leads around a giant hemisphere that tells them

billion of stars, making the audience linger in amazement of our

about the planet‘s surface. They learn about wind, weather, and

beautiful galaxy. A stunning model of our planet system is hang-

climate and experience amazing natural phenomena with excit-

ing from the ceiling, giving the visitor an image of distance and

ing experiments and challenging games. The backside of the

dimensions. It is inviting the visitors to learn about navigation,

giant globe can be entered and gives the visitors the possibility

observation, and our solar system. In the center of the exhibition

of learning about our planet’s core. A big installation of the

hall, a huge spaceship—the central icon of the gallery—encour-

earth’s different layers shows how our planet is built and what

ages the audience to discover adventurous stories related to

happens underneath the visible surface. The visitors can explore

space travel. The fascination of manned missions through all

the earth’s interior and learn all about resources and magnetism.

times and even back in the early days of mankind is as broadly

Before leaving the gallery, they climb up a hill that allows them a

explained and visualized as stunning science fiction fantasies

unique view of the breathtaking beauty of our home planet—an

and inspiring visions of scientific progress.

emotional moment of rest and peaceful calmness.

4 | Water: The water playground, main exhibit of the Water Gallery

WATER aquatic beauty and dynamics

TECHNOLOGY the fascinating world of atoms and molecules

The Water Gallery concentrates on topics both above the sur-

The Technology Gallery introduces the audience to modern

face and underwater. The first part of the gallery is attracting

technologies such as chemistry, quantum physics, and molecu-

the audience’s interest to a beautiful coastline scenery with a

lar biology. The visitors enter a room where they feel shrinked

dockyard and a lighthouse at the beach. The second part of the

to the size of atomic structures. A large scale atom model is the

gallery invites the visitors to literally dive into a deep-sea world

main attraction, expanding into infinity on the walls. Each

and find themselves face-to-face with fish, corals, and a subma-

molecule opens a small world of content with topics like our

rine. This room plays with the impression of an immersive

knowledge of the elements, communication networks, light

underwater world using light, sound, and life-sized fish models.

and laser up to high-tech subjects such as “artificial intelli-

The largest exhibit is an exciting water playground with vari-

gence”, nanotechnology, and bionics.

ous experiments on water, its behaviour and its consistency. The visitors can actively learn about issues of fresh water and seafaring, the ocean floor, biodiversity underwater, and deepsea exploration.

5 | Technology: The Technology Gallery is dominated by an infinite molecular structure

The challenge of communicating knowlegde Saudi Arabia is changing. Its wealth—grown mostly out of oil in

ing them to Saudi Arabia, Islamic heritage, historic scholars,

the past decades—is a precious property that should be used

present-day applications, etc. This establishes a direct relation-

with lasting effect and an orientation towards the future. Edu-

ship between local every day life, historical legacy and present

cation and knowledge are the most important instruments for

cultural awareness as well as up-to-date technologies, which is

achieving this. In this context, the PSSO is meant to become an

of paramount importance for the economic, social and sustain-

eminently attractive institution with international appeal. It is

able development of the Kingdom today.

destined to make the audience experience how fascinating and emotionally fulfilling the engagement with our world can be,

M. Sc.

but also to illustrate the urgency and existential nature of the problems that mankind will be facing in the 21st century. The PSSO offers an adventurous visitor circuit and provides a learning experience with the aid of interactive exhibits that are closely related to the historical, cultural or technological transfer of knowledge. Instead of simply looking at exhibition pieces or reading inscriptions on historic or cultural knowledge, the visitors are invited to actively discover the presented content in a physical and playful way. By experiencing the presented phenomena with all their senses, the visitors are able to gain a much deeper and more profound understanding of the different aspects of the exhibition. With a very sensitive and empathic approach of presentation, the PSSO manages to attract visitors of all ages and engage their attention. A broad variety of different interactive exhibits stimulates the audience’s interest and encourages an active curiosity in

Dr. Stefan Klessmann

science, technology, and the environment. All exhibits and phe-

Managing Partner

nomena on display are embedded in a larger context, connect-

TRIAD Berlin

Special Topics | Science Communication in Riyadh: The Prince Salman Science Oasis 96 | 97

Prince Salman Science Oasis  

Published in: Education Guide Partnerships and Perspectives of Arab-German Cooperation Quelle: Deutsch: Herausgeber: Ghorfa Arab-German C...

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