Meet the Team: Ian Surra

May 24, 2011

Ian Surra

Ian Surra

Whether it's building prototypes, playing instruments or just watching things go BoingBoing, there's never a dull moment when you're asking 5 questions of Jack Rouse Associates co-op, Ian Surra.

My favorite part of the design process is...

Physically building the models, prototypes, and products. I love making things and working with my hands. That's the main reason I'm studying industrial design: I want to know how everything is made, and then I want to make it.


My ipod/itunes is full of...

A smorgasbord of music, of all genre, period, and style. I'm pretty passionate about music, I play some instruments, been in a few bands, and I probably spend significantly more than I should on CDs and LPs.  It's really hard to pick favorites, but I've been listening to Max Indian's new album a lot recently, and it is fantastic.


I get my daily news from...


Google Reader. My friend introduced me to it a few months ago, and it is addicting. I follow a bunch of blogs (like BoingBoing and GOOD), parse the headlines of BBC News and Al Jazeera, read comics, etc. Google Reader makes it far too easy to be fed endless interesting information. I also listen to NPR in the morning on the radio.


I'm reading...

I'm about to finish a book called Rip it Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984 by Simon Reynolds. I picked it up on a whim from a used bookstore, and it's been great.  As I said, I love music, and postpunk is definitely one of the more interesting musical (and cultural) movements.


What are your favorite movies?

Just like with music, it's hard to pick favorites. I love Wes Anderson movies, and John Hughes' stuff. I suppose in general I like filmmakers with a good sense of humor. Lately I've been on a Kevin Smith binge. I also have a soft spot for science-fiction: The Fifth Element, The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai Across the 8th Dimension, Brazil, 12 Monkeys, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind... there are too many to list.
 

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JRA Guest Blog: Strategic Planning

May 19, 2011

Hugh Spencer

Hugh Spencer

Please remind me again...why are we doing this?
Why Good Strategic Planning Makes for Great Public Experiences

For today's guest blog, are lucky to have Hugh Spencer of Museum Planning Partners help us tackle that penultimate question in undertaking a museum project: why?

In our line or work, we use leading edge technologies, employ advanced logistics and even run our interpersonal professional relationships according to sophisticated human management models.  This can sometimes make it hard to have the courage to ask what might seem like some really simple questions when we undertake change or initiate new projects: 

How does a project help us to achieve our goals?  How are we going to carry out this project?  What’s going to change in the world once we’re finished?  Who is going care that we’re doing this project?  Creating great exhibitions and public experiences is hard work; it can take a lot of time and many resources.  So why are we doing all of this?

These questions may be awkward to ask, but finding reliable answers can be extremely important to your future and success.  More and more museums, art galleries, science centers, zoos, aquariums and theme parks are turning to master planning and strategic planning as a way of finding the essential information to help them grow and better serve their markets and communities.  Strategic planning helps you to better understand who you are, what your roles are, what challenges and opportunities you’re facing, what resources you can use, and what steps you can take.

There’s a vital connection between strategic planning and exhibition and attraction design, because your exhibits, shows and even architecture are all very powerful ways to express your organization’s identity and mission.  These are also the experiences that will attract people to you and keep them coming back.  The results of a good strategic plan will help you to define your brand, craft your core messages and identify the markets you need to serve.

Working with JRA has given me some really wonderful and, I come right out and say it, fun opportunities to apply the results of strategic planning to help create some great exhibitions and attractions.  The American Royal Visitors Center in Kansas City needed more market and educational curriculum information so that we could design exhibits and programs that would make it a year-round rather than just a seasonal attraction.  KIA Motors presented us with the unique challenge of converting a temporary World’s Fair pavilion into a permanent science center.  The resources and operational requirements identified in our planning study told us how we could recast the visitor experience and specify the best possible back-of-house infrastructure.

Right now, I’ve been working with the JRA team on the development of new master plan for one our America’s more prestigious educational attractions.  While we have just begun our work on the project, it is clear that strategic planning will serve as the foundation for the development of the institution’s new exhibit program, operations and, perhaps, branding.  It is this holistic approach that will gave the institution the best chance to succeed for the long term, which its been such a fulfilling project to work on.

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Hugh Spencer is a writer, interpretive planner and museum consultant and has participated on projects around the world such as the White House Visitors Center in Washington D.C. the Natural History Museum in London, the Singapore Discovery Centre, and the West Kowloon Cultural District in Hong Kong, the Khalsa Heritage Centre and the Massar Discovery Centre in Damascus.  He has been a cultural and attractions consultant since 1987 with groups such as Lord Cultural Resources, Cultural Innovations, Hall Train Studios and Arius 3D.  Hugh is currently President and Senior Consultant at Museum Planning Partners.












 

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JRA Journeys: Singapore

May 17, 2011

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The Merlion - Sentosa Island, Singapore

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In our last segment, we journeyed through southern China to the territories of Macau and Hong Kong.  Today, we’ll head west to the majestic island country of Singapore.  While there, we’ll visit Science Centre Singapore before venturing to Sentosa Island, Singapore’s entertainment capital and home to two Jack Rouse Associates projects.

The Republic of Singapore is a city-state comprised of 63 islands off the Malay Peninsula, just 85 miles north of the Equator.  First settled in 2 A.D., Singapore was governed by Great Britain and Malaysia before declaring its independence in 1965.  This unique location and history supports a fusion of many cultures, and Singapore’s official languages include English, Malay, Chinese and Tamil.  The Singaporean government views racial and religious harmony as the key to the country’s past successes and future endeavors.  Considered one of the four Asian Tigers (along with South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong), Singapore has seen a massive increase in wealth since becoming an independent nation, and it is now the fifth busiest port in the world.

Located in the Jurong East section of Singapore, Science Centre Singapore (SCS) specializes in the promotion of scientific and technological education for the general public.  Opened in 1977, SCS now hosts more than 1 million visitors annually and offers 850 exhibits among its 8 exhibition galleries.



JRA worked with Science Centre Singapore’s in-house design staff to develop an exciting live show and themed elements within the museum’s entry atrium.  The renovated atrium integrates a number of the Centre’s existing off-the-shelf exhibits into a high-energy, high-impact experience that communicates a strong message about the thrill of science.  Facilitated by a live actor portraying the mysterious Nikola Tesla, the show makes use of the full atrium, creating an immersive environment that recalls the tremendous power of natural phenomena.  Through audience interaction, special effects and dramatic lighting, the educational and entertaining presentation builds into a thunderous crescendo of lightning from an iconic Tesla coil.  JRA also designed a variety of themed portals that introduce guests to the Science Centre’s wide variety of science-themed exhibit galleries.

Traveling southwest down the Ayer Rajah Expressway before taking a cable car across Keppel Harbour, we arrive at Sentosa Island.  Sentosa, which translates to peace and tranquility in Malay, is Singapore’s entertainment epicenter.  Attractions include Resorts World Sentosa casino, Universal Studios and the JRA-designed attractions Fort Siloso and The Merlion.

JRA provided overall design and production for a major exhibit and site renovation of Fort Siloso, Singapore’s only preserved coastal fortification.  This historic site now serves as a popular interpretive attraction and houses a comprehensive overview of Singapore’s World War II history.  Updates to the interpretive attraction include: more accessible walking routes, new interpretive experiences, relocated exhibits and exciting multimedia shows, each providing insight into the diversity of people and events surrounding the Fort’s rich history.



Guests of Fort Siloso begin their experience at a new square, where they can see a series of exhibits and films that detail Fort Siloso’s history.  From there, visitors may tour the Fort’s structures, seeing firsthand what life was like for soldiers and volunteers who served on Sentosa Island throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  Popular attractions such as the “booming” six-inch gun and vignettes depicting the lives of soldiers are blended with more reflective exhibits that address the POW experience and Singapore’s years of Japanese occupation.


Reverting from history to pure fantasy, we journey from Fort Siloso across Sentosa Island to The Merlion.  The Merlion is Singapore’s benevolent guardian and one of the many mysteries of the sea.  The new Merlion experience begins with a pre-show that introduces visitors to sea mysteries from many cultures.  Lively original music follows guests as they pass dioramas depicting mermaids, lake monsters, sea serpents, movie creatures and other deep-dwelling enigmas.


The attraction’s main theater showcases Singapore’s own sea mysteries: the storm that threatened Prince Sang Nila Utama in the 11th century as he traveled to the island he would name “Singapura,” or Lion City and the development of the Merlion as a symbol of welcome and guardian of Singapore’s good fortune. These stories, presented using animation from Hollywood’s ACME Filmworks, are told in a themed space that puts audience members into the heart of the action.  Afterward, visitors can participate in an interactive experience, which allows them to see whether they, too, have been touched by the luck of the Merlion.  The guest experience culminates with a trip to the top of the Merlion’s head to take in a view of Singapore’s harbour that has captivated island-goers since the Merlion first came to Sentosa.


The Merlion was completed as part of a bigger project, conducted in partnership with Los Angeles-based BRC Imagination Arts, to redevelop several key attractions at Sentosa.


This brings us to the end of our JRA Journey through Singapore.  Join us next time as we conclude our Asian tour with visits to Malaysia and the Philippines.  Till then, we wish you safe journeys of your own, and remember – it’s never too late to have an adventure!

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Blog N' Learn: 16 Stages of Project Development - Construction Documentation

May 12, 2011

Construction Documents

Construction Documents

16 Stages of Project Development
Stage 11: Production and Fabrication Documents


In our last 16 Steps segment, we completed JRA’s design process, selected the materials and finishes for your exhibits and attractions, and helped you select and hire the fabricators, AV hardware vendors, lighting vendors and media producers who will make your project (and JRA’s designs) a reality.  From this point forward, JRA will assume the role of executive producer, managing the work of the various sub-consultants in cooperation with the base build architects and engineers.

In this stage, all documents required by consultants, vendors and contractors to implement the project are finalized, though the documentation produced can vary greatly with each museum or attraction.  These exhibit, attraction and building works documents are assembled into a tender package to bid out a general contractor (those familiar with the Royal Institute of British Architects stages will recognize this milestone as Stage G).  Deliverables among the various vendors and the building architect may include:

  • Plans
  • Specifications
  • Construction Documents
  • Shop Drawings
  • Scripts
  • Storyboards
  • Models


Upon the selection of a general contractor, demolition will most likely begin on a renovation or foundation work on new construction.  Production begins on exhibit components, rides, attractions and media.  We’ll delve further into this process in Stage 12, Production and Fabrication.
 

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Meet the Team: 5 Questions for Emily Ciccarello

May 10, 2011

Emily Ciccarello

Emily Ciccarello

Interesting wall decor, teleportation and attack pigeons?  Must be time for another 5 Questions segment, this time with JRA co-op, Emily Ciccarello.


Best advice anyone ever gave me …  “Forget regret… or life is yours to miss.”

I beat a creative block by …   Doing or observing something else creative that is unrelated to what is causing my block.  If it’s a design issue I might go choreograph a dance, listen to music, or watch inspiring youtube videos.

Do you collect anything? If so, what?  I collect discarded CDs that are scratched beyond functioning or unwanted and use them to decorate my room by writing my favorite song lyrics at that moment on them.

If you could have any super powers, what would they be? I would like the ability to teleport myself anywhere so I could save a ton of time getting from point A to point B, and I would not have to deal with cars, traffic, and the soaring price of gasoline.

My most embarrassing moment was… When I got attacked by a pigeon in a crowded park, and by attacked I mean it latched onto my hair for a solid 10 seconds as I flailed around swatting at it fervidly to let go. 

 

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Project Spotlight: Honoring the Mercury Mission

May 06, 2011

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Kennedy Space Center - Early Space Exploration

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“It’s been a long way, but we’re here.”
- Alan Shepard

Fifty years ago today, and only 23 days after Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s momentous voyage, Alan Shepard became the first American in space, riding aboard the Freedom 7 capsule as part of NASA’s Mercury missions.  Shepard’s flight lasted only 15 minutes and 23 seconds, but it inspired John F. Kennedy to make the following remarks before Congress only twenty days later:

Finally, if we are to win the battle that is now going on around the world between freedom and tyranny, the dramatic achievements in space which occurred in recent weeks should have made clear to us all, as did the Sputnik in 1957, the impact of this adventure on the minds of men everywhere, who are attempting to make a determination of which road they should take…

…I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.


Twelve years ago, the Kennedy Space Center asked Jack Rouse Associates to design its Early Space Exploration Exhibit, which tells the story of the early days of NASA and the American space effort.  Organized by space achievements from the early twentieth-century through the 1970s, the 8,500 square-foot exhibit guides more than 3 million guests per year through a comprehensive and compelling history.



The exhibit features a variety of immersive environments, media experiences and displays of unique artifacts, including authentic Mercury and Gemini capsules, Apollo space suits and various NASA rocket models.  The jewel of the exhibit is the actual Mercury Control Room – the same used to guide Alan Shepard out into space and safely back to Earth – relocated from Cape Canaveral Air Force Base.



“We are honored to have worked on such an important project celebrating US space exploration,” said Dan Schultz, Chief Operating Officer.  “Then men and women of the Mercury program were true pioneers, and we hope this exhibit will inspire others to expand their view of what is possible.”

“I must admit, maybe I am a piece of history after all.”
- Alan Shephard
 

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