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The Design Museum: Moving to Mars

Creating the experience of visiting and living on another planet was an enriching experience for all the team at Factory Settings.

Working closely with digital agency Fabrique, 3D designers All Things Studio and the Design Museum, we had to create a strong sense of what it could be like to journey through time and space. 

Ambitious designs such as this really benefit when we are actively engaged in the design development phase, through discussions, sampling and prototyping.

Our greatest challenge was to replicate the texture of Mars’ surface for the flooring. Following a rigorous exploratory and sampling process, we CNC’d the surface from MDF, then treated it with a Rubio Monocoat coloured stain…  the effect was stunning. And proved a cost-effective alternative to valchromat. We repeated the finish on all the large freestanding plinths.

The 30m long wall that spanned the length of the gallery has a continuous wallpaper applied to it with a gradient, giving the effect of the sky on Mars. Foil-wrapped panels cladding the exhibition walls served to resemble the cladding of a spaceship. Both complemented the objects on display and heightened the visitors’ sensory experience of the exhibition. 

By discussing a variety of value-engineering options with the Design Museum team from the very beginning, we managed to ensure the feature elements such as the flooring could be retained within scope. For example using 12mm rather than 18mm board for express joins, and re-purposing the long wall materials in the two succeeding exhibitions - all helped to maximise the budget, yet still achieve the design team’s vision.

Given the number of stakeholders involved, the clear communication channels established by Factory Settings at the outset helped to achieve a smooth, collegiate approach with everyone able to contribute to meeting the budget and aesthetic aspirations.

Photos © Ed Reeves & The Design Museum