Five Years of Imaginosity, Dublin Children's Museum

August 30, 2012

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Imaginosity! - Dublin Children's Museum

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It’s been a month of celebrations here at JRA, and this week is no different. Imaginosity, Dublin Children’s Museum recently celebrated five years of bringing fun, creativity and learning to the children of Ireland and beyond.

Jack Rouse Associates and educational consultant Mary Sinker provided planning and design for Imaginosity. The museum is dedicated to creating a meaningful, fun experience for children and adults to share, and it emphasizes arts and literacy education through a combination of interactive exhibits and daily programs, invoking a “hands-on, minds-on” philosophy. The museum’s design is reflective of the local culture, containing 12,000 square feet of environments that encourage children to both “play” and “create” their own stories. Specific exhibit areas include: a mini-town, a construction zone, art studios, performance art spaces and a unique two-and-a-half-story climbing structure.

Imaginosity was the first children’s museum in Ireland in 2007 and is still the only interactive museum on the Emerald Isle for children under 9. In the last five years, the museum welcomed over half a million visitors. By the looks of these reviews, they’ve enjoyed some pretty happy little customers:

  • • “My grandsons aged 5 and 3 love this place. The variety and range of activities for their ages is great. They can use their imagination but with lots of aids. Every time they visit they ask to go.”
  • • “…It was a dream for a 5 year old and a 7 year old. Great day out, worth going early as we got to stay as long as we liked (dragged them out after 4 hours).”
  • • “A treasure trove for kids…Brilliant interactive themed areas. A real wonderland and very hands on. Appealing to all the senses.”
  • • “Needed to amuse my 3-yr-old granddaughter on a wet Sunday and found the perfect place. She loved every minute of it. She had a chance to use her imagination and integrate with other children. She shopped, drove a car, built a wall, cooked a meal, read a book in the library, played music, and went up and down the climbing 2½-story-high tower. Came home happy and exhausted, with no trouble getting to sleep!”

“The team at Imaginosity was incredibly creative and collaborative – a real pleasure to work with,” said JRA Senior Project Director, Mike Meyer. “It was an honor to be a part of bringing Ireland’s first children’s museum to life, and it’s great to see that it’s still making children happy five years later.”

Jenny Bohan, General Manager of the museum, agrees: “We have made great strides since we opened 5 years ago,” she said. “We are still reaching out to audiences across the country; we continue to secure sponsorship and create corporate partnerships for the museum and remain a hugely popular place for schools to visit throughout the year. We are regularly invited to provide educational, creative and interactive family fun at national festivals and cultural events, and the positive feedback and reviews just keep on coming!”

Imaginosity celebrated its special birthday with a week full of “birthday bundle” prize giveaways, culminating in a day-long, free celebration with cake, balloons, face painting and costumed characters. As part of the festivities, the museum welcomed and raised funds for “Clowns for Haiti,” a group of Irish men and women creating smiles and rebuilding schools in the earthquake ravaged country.

“Here’s to the next five years and beyond!” said Ms. Bohan. “We see ourselves continuing to grow over the coming years and intend to change with the demands of our audience, our members and the times we live in. But we can say that, for certain, our aim is to remain a place of fun, of learning and of huge excitement for every child that comes through our doors.”

JRA congratulates the entire Imaginosity, Dublin Children's Museum team and hopes to see Irish eyes smiling at the museum for many years to come.

Just when you thought we were done celebrating, next week we’ll cover the 40th birthday of Sentosa Island, Singapore and visit two JRA-designed Sentosa attractions. Thanks for reading!


 

Tags: JRA Journeys , Outside the Studio , Project Spotlight

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An Afternoon Wonderland

August 23, 2012

The ladies of JRA gathered at the Cincinnatian Hotel for a Mad Tea Party to celebrate the upcoming wedding of Chloe James.

The ladies of JRA gathered at the Cincinnatian Hotel for a Mad Tea Party to celebrate the upcoming wedding of Chloe James.

It was a mad, mad afternoon, as the ladies of JRA threw Executive Assistant, Chloe James, an Alice in Wonderland Mad Tea Party to celebrate her upcoming wedding.  In true themed entertainment fashion, the guests each donned a unique chapeau, and Chloe herself was presented with a large blue bow reminiscent of that worn by Lewis Carroll's storybook heroine.  To complete the tableau were teapots, teacups, roses, themed menus and games, and of course, a pile of presents for the guest of honor.  Chloe will walk down the aisle with Eric Hausfeld on November 24th in Downtown Cincinnati.

Even CEO (and father-of-the-bride) Keith James couldn't pass up on the fun and dropped in on the festive scene sporting a White Rabbit top hat!  For more fun photos from the Ladies Lunch, check out our Facebook page.

August has been a month of milestones, and we'll celebrate yet another next week, as the JRA designed and produced Imaginosity! celebrates its fifth birthday.

The James Family in their Alice in Wonderland finest (L-R: Alexis, Keith, Chloe and Patti).

Tags: JRA Team , Outside the Studio

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10 Years of Enginuity

August 15, 2012

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Enginuity at the Ironbridge Gorge Museums - Coalbrookdale, England

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The arrival of a new addition to the James family was not the only milestone JRA celebrated last week. It also marked the 10th anniversary of Enginuity in Coalbrookdale, England.

Located within the picturesque Ironbridge Gorge, the Coalbrookdale museum campus contains numerous museums and historic sites that tell the story of the Industrial Revolution. Jack Rouse Associates designed the tenth Coalbrookdale museum within this UNESCO World Heritage site, the popular Enginuity. Divided into four sections — Materials and Structure, Systems and Control, Design and Make, and Energy— this 20,000-square-foot educational attraction is filled with noise from the wonderment and energy of engineering presented in an interesting way. Showcasing the ideas of engineering in a historical context, while connecting them to contemporary design and technology, interactivity is the key to Enginuity’s success. Working with the museum’s in-house staff, JRA designed a variety of cutting-edge, award-winning interactives and displays. Enginuity opened on August 6, 2002.

During the assessment phase of this project, the single biggest criterion for success was that the museum meet clearly defined national curriculum objectives. Other criteria were:

  • • That the new museum complement the existing museums in the valley belonging to the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, yet not compete with them. Enginuity needed to be a new type of museum that would bring in a different category of visitor.
  • • That the new museum be more interactive than what was currently being done in British museums. The client took as its model an American science center.
  • • That designers be sensitive to the fact that the new museum would be housed within a historical building and that they work with the entailed limitations.
  • • That designers work within a limited, finite budget. Since the operations budget was also limited, JRA needed to create a product that was not staff- or maintenance-intensive.
  • • That the museum’s exhibits be truly innovative in keeping with the museum’s story line.

When JRA received the Request for Proposals for this project, a British feasibility firm had already developed a framework of a program based upon the national curriculum. Within that framework, the firm had outlined several broad categories for interpretation. These included: Energy, Materials, Design, and Systems and Controls. Once hired, the JRA team met with the client, both in the UK and in Cincinnati, to begin to flesh out how those categories could be presented. The team began to imagine a design palette and a guest experience. They talked about emotional and educational peaks, big “Wows!” and key moments of interactivity. They talked about taking off-the-shelf exhibits and technology and using them as springboards for building new exhibits. The JRA team also worked with an architect who helped them deal with the building and who had some ideas for use of its vertical spaces. After those meetings, the team developed a story line and, from that, a more finite list of specific exhibits for each content category.

During the actual design process, JRA involved the client very closely. The JRA design team started with very rough sketches and several examples for each exhibit area. During weekly conference calls, they discussed the most recent sketches. During the next week, they refined those sketches while developing new ones. At key intervals, the team met face-to-face with the client for two days of intense charretting. Eventually, they built a model of the museum.

As the project moved forward, there came a time when design and production were working in tandem so that the producers, in the final stage of design, were getting familiar with the design intent and content objectives of the exhibits. Eventually, the project was signed over to JRA’s in-house production team. JRA’s producers moved to England during the installation phase of the project, and, at some critical junctures, made shop visits to check on prototyping.

The major challenges of the project included working with an existing, historic structure and coming up with exhibits that delivered information in ways that people in that region had not experienced before. There were also a number of big, historic artifacts to interpret, including a locomotive.

Enginuity has been critically acclaimed in the United Kingdom and was named “Family Attraction of the Year” by the Good Britain Guide 2003. It has sparked record attendance at the Museum Trust’s suite of attractions, and it has been extremely well received by the museum community. Working with the museum, JRA’s design team was also successful in developing exhibits that reflect the attraction’s story of innovation. In fact, some of the exhibits are one-of-a-kind, and the client is looking into patenting one of the interactives.

Ten years later, Enginuity is still garnering rave reviews. Check out these guest comments from just the last month:

  • We've been to a lot of interactive science museums over the years - but this one was really a step above - very entertaining, informative and I would definitely recommend.
  • My son gives this top marks for the range of fascinating opportunities to try new engineering related activities.
  • All kinds of interactive things for the kids to do - I learned quite a bit too. Seemed well put together, the staff were very helpful and friendly.
  • There seemed to be a great range of exhibits for different ages, and done in a way that it entertained even kids too young to quite understand what was going on. We'll definitely be going back.
  • Great place for children from 3 to 80!

Enginuity celebrated its decade last week with a special live show featuring its “Presenters,” a group that leads workshops and helps visitors understand more about the fascinating world of design and technology. For this show, the Presenters showcased some of their favorite experiments over the last 10 years, including walking on a bed of nails!

All of us at JRA wish the staff of Enginuity and the Ironbridge Gorge Museums a very Happy 10th Birthday, and many years of success to follow.
 

Tags: JRA Journeys , Project Spotlight

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Keith James' New Title

August 09, 2012

Keith James with the newest member of the JRA family

Keith James with the newest member of the JRA family

Jack Rouse Associates' CEO is taking on a new role - grandpa!

Keith James' daughter Alexis (Lexi) McDonald gave birth to a healthy 7 lb, 15 oz son, Emmett Keithan McDonald, yesterday in Cincinnati.  Mom, Dad (also named Emmett) and "little E" are doing fine, and Keith, wife Patti and "Auntie Chloe" are over the moon at this new addition to their family.

No word on whether Keith's new title will be Grandpa, Grampy, Popi or the like, but we'll be sure to keep you posted.  In the meantime, everyone at JRA wishes the James and McDonald families our heartiest congratulations.
 

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Pouring Up Fun at the Jim Beam Distillery

August 02, 2012

New American Stillhouse - Jim Beam Distillery

New American Stillhouse - Jim Beam Distillery

Clara Rice, Blogger-in-Chief here, reporting from the construction site of JRA's newest project. Excitement is on tap here in Clermont, Kentucky, as the new Jim Beam American Stillhouse and Distillery Tour are only weeks from completion. JRA is providing planning, design and project management services for the experiential components of the new American Stillhouse and Distillery Tour, which takes the visitor behind the scenes of one of the bourbon industry's most iconic brands. From mashing to fermenting, barreling to bottling, tour guests will be able to witness the time-honored process of creating this "liquid legend." Guests will also discover more about the distilling dynasty that is the Beam family.

By the end of the tour, guests will be pretty thirsty, and Jim Beam is happy to accommodate. Guides will lead visitors into the newly remodeled American Outpost, where they will have the opportunity to taste two of Jim Beam’s variety of bourbons in a comfortable, cocktail party-like setting.

Installation is in full swing as the American Stillhouse and Distillery Tour approach their opening early September. In fact, anticipation is so high that CNN Travel has already dubbed the new experience as one of the "World's Best Distillery Tours." We'll drink to that!

"It's been a great honor to work on a project for a company that's so steeped in American history and culture," said Heather Witt, Senior Project Manager. "It's been a pleasure working with the Jim Beam Family, and I can't wait to open the doors to their guests."

We can't spill all of the Stillhouse's secrets just yet, so tune in early next month, as we celebrate the grand unveiling of what we're sure will be a flavorful experience.

First photo of the historic staircase in its new location!

Tags: JRA Journeys , Outside the Studio , Project Spotlight

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