Foodscape: World of Soil
STUDIO / DESIGNER
Peter Whittaker, Rob Molenaar, Heather Dowling-Wade
Exhibition / Pop-up and Set Design
Structures & Spaces
Peter Whittaker, Rob Molenaar and Heather Dowling-Wade (Lead Designers)
DMW Creative (Exhibition design, scripting, & supervision)
Kirstie McAdoo, Genevieve Whitfield (Content and Scripting)
Peter Whittaker (Additional Photography)
Additional scripting: Fiona Houston
Graphic Design: Joanne Byrne
Illustration: Emily Kouri, Stop A While Studio
Films and Interactives: Thought Different
Voiceover: Tristan Heanue
Dome System Struts and Connectors: VikingDome
Timber supply and panel machining: Timbercraft
Dome construction: Rob Molenaar, Paul Ryan, Matthew Ryan
Exhibit build and fitout: Display Contracts International
Set-dressing: Bill, Harry and Joe Fallover
Design Challenge and Design Ideas
Airfield Estate is Dublin’s only working farm and gardens with an ambition to be a sustainable food hub in a world-leading sustainable food city. The challenge was to build an inspiring and surprising family-friendly exhibition, in a reused barn, to explore soil – the foundation of food systems and natural world.
The design is a world-first: a permanent exhibition of three interconnected domes, disguising the barn’s interior, bringing visitors ‘down’ to an underground scientific laboratory alive with the sights and sounds of the soil food web. The domes’ triangular struts would be kept visible as part of the design language. All surfaces would be either printed; set-dressed; with audiovisual material integrated into the walls as much as possible.
Sustainability is intrinsic to the exhibition, addressing SDGs 2 (sustainable agriculture), 3 (health), 4 (quality education), 6 (clean water), 11 (sustainable cities), 12 (sustainable production+consumption), 13 (climate action), and 15 (life on land).
How the brief was fulfilled
To minimise environmental impact, every aspect of the project was 3d modelled in advance, to determine content placement, view lines, look and feel, hands-on functionality, and to projection-map the print work for the wraparound environments. Precision CNC manufacture then followed, minimising waste.
A tunnel into dome 1, built with locally-sourced timber, evokes a mine entrance, with hard hats, shovels and pickaxes. The introductory film within, projected on multiple triangles, sets the scene of where soil comes from, and its importance; and prompts visitors to explore further in dome 2.
Dome 2’s ceiling is setdressed with earth, worms and roots hanging down. Hands-on exhibits let visitors break down rock; see chemical weathering in action; explore soil pH with a giant probe; take a quiz on soil types in their garden; see how water erodes soil in different ways; and use a giant microscope to explore the myriad tiny inhabitants in soil. The print panels and integrated ‘triangular’ AVs (large screens on the domes’ exterior) take you on a journey through soil’s formation, to its uses in agriculture and beyond, and how soil is affected by human activity and climate change.
Dome 3 brings visitors back ‘up’ to a wildlife-filled meadow, surrounded by the sounds of appropriate insects and birds. This dome encourages visitors to pledge to various actions that help the soil, like composting; buying organic; rewilding, and growing their own food. Two large touchtables let visitors see Airfield from the air, pinpointing the farm’s various organic and regenerative agriculture initiatives.
Within the constraints of the barn’s limited space, we incorporated several universal design principles (e.g. Flexibility in Use; Simple and Intuitive Use; Low Physical Effort; Size and Space for Approach and Use) in creating the exhibition. The content was designed to be intellectually accessible; the spaces easy to navigate, and to choose your own path; and the exhibits easy to access, read and use.
Custom illustrations were integrated into the graphic design, with a colour palette featuring Airfield Brand colours; and large x-height fonts (Mallory and Arnhem) for legibility.