The Universe: A Walk Through Space and Time is a new exhibit at the Adler Planetarium which takes visitors through the history of space and time. From its beginnings at the Big Bang to what we experience today, the exhibit explains the theory of how stars, planets, galaxies, and the atoms in your body came to be. One of the main goals of the exhibit is to express the mystery and vastness of space. The physical space available was quite small so this also became the main architectural challenge. A sense of endless space and separation from the terrestrial world of the museum is achieved by manipulating the senses using shaped space with soft and ephemeral surfaces of fabric, light, darkness, and sound.
The journey starts at the beginning of the universe where everything was theoretically compressed into an incredibly tiny space represented by an animated hologram. At the moment of the Big Bang light and sound entice visitors into a tunnel representing the formation and expansion of space-time. It pulses with light and sound including interactive floor projections and several displays documenting the stages of the Universe’s formation. The tunnel is compressed at the opening, expanding as you move through. This “time tunnel” experience transforms your sense of place, effectively separating you psychologically from the main museum.
Exiting the tunnel, a dramatic curving wall of changing images is revealed in a room which seems to have no limits. This edgeless gallery is formed with black fabric scrim walls and floating fabric screen panels wrapping the room to immerse the visitor into scales of the Universe. The user controls the interactive wall projections displaying images of our universe from the most microscopic to the most galactic in scale continually changing the architecture in the process.
The plan folds onto itself to form a gallery of interactive stations which explain various concepts and theories of the universe and our place in it. They explain evidence of the Big Bang, the materials of stars making up our bodies and the big questions such as “Are We Alone?” in the Universe. The plan layout ingeniously returns you to where you started your journey leaving you with final thoughts on still unanswered mysteries of the Universe.