Gagarin was awarded an Honor Award by SEGD for the Eldheimar exhibition in Westman Islands, Iceland. There are over 1,700 members in more than 20 countries in SEGD and among 336 submissions only 6 received the highest Honor Award.
The Society for Experiential Graphic Design (SEGD) is a global, multidisciplinary community of professionals who plan, design, and build experiences that connect people to place. The society includes graphic and information designers, fabricators, architects, exhibition designers, technology integrators, interaction designers, brand strategists, students, wayfinding specialists, teachers, and others who have a hand in shaping content-rich, experiential spaces.
Launched in May 2014, the Eldheimar Volcano Museum is dedicated to one of Iceland’s biggest natural disasters, the Heimaey eruption in 1973. In the middle of the night on January 23, a volcanic fissure opened up on the outskirts of the town and continuously ejected lava and ash for five months.
The museum is located in a new building on the very slopes of the Eldfell volcano where the fissure originally appeared. The museum takes you on a journey back to a time before the eruption until the end of the volcanic activities. Visitors can learn the remarkable story of how the inhabitants fled to the mainland of Iceland in the night, how some stayed to fight the lava flow to protect their livelihoods, and finally, about those inhabitants who returned to Heimaey to reconstruct their homes.
Gagarin aimed to enhance the learning experience by encouraging visitors to be “protagonist explorers” rather than passive consumers of information. By hunting through debris like archaeologists and discovering “lost” information and old memories, visitors are empowered to discover their own narrative within the museum visit. We worked in close collaboration with the exhibition designer, Axel Hallkell Jóhannesson, to tie our interactive narration tight into the overall exhibiton.
The SEGD jury had the following comments about the project:
“This project practically redefines interactivity, minimizing digital content in favor of shovels in sandboxes, photo cubes, and a lava-covered house. Visitors get the visceral experience of digging out a destroyed home. The relative absence of flashy technology gives this space a wonderful immediacy.”
“A hauntingly beautiful experience that communicates the wrath of Mother Nature through delightfully simple interactions. The dark, ashy environment gives way to playful experiences that erupt with emotion without sacrificing engagement.”
“This project demonstrates a sophisticated overall design language that allows for the traumatic subject matter to speak for itself, at the same time interactive media are used in an playful manner that engages the audience to explore the historic events and to relate to them on a personal level. Excavation is an impressive example for merging digital content with a surprising physical interface.”
“Encourages considered user participation through the use of primitive sensory experiences to remember a powerful community-changing event.”
“Wheel of Time” - By turning the rim of the table, visitors can interact with the display and effectively scroll forward or backwards through time.
Visitors can learn about the extreme forces of nature that not only reshaped the island but also the lives of its inhabitants.
“Excavation” - With the aid of small shovels, visitors are invited to dig into the sand whereby this action alludes to a search for lost memories.