Responses by Bruno Arizio, design director; Matthijs Horsman, general manager; and Aaron Howell, digital producer, Resn.
Background: ”In 2017, Getty acquired the Frank O. Gehry papers: a vast treasure trove of materials that included drawings, physical models, photographs and video content,” says Matthijs Horsman. “Due to the historical value of the papers, Getty committed to the monumental task of preserving and digitizing the hundreds of thousands of items in the collection. Additionally, it wanted to find ways to share and celebrate the archive’s spirit with the general public. To achieve this, Getty approached us to collaborate on an interactive exhibition of one of Gehry’s masterpieces, the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. The site catered to two target audiences: a lay audience who may be unfamiliar with the subject matter, and a scholarly audience with an academic interest in the history and design of the building.”
Larger picture: “Sculpting Harmony was released in tandem with Modeling Sound, a physical exhibition featuring six of Gehry’s architectural models in the Walt Disney Concert Hall,” says Horsman. “The two exhibitions were complementary: Sculpting Harmony catered to a global online audience, while Modeling Sound provided a tactile in-person experience. As Getty’s archive holds materials from almost 300 Gehry projects, there could be more digital exhibitions in the future. Watch this space!”
Design core: “Our goal was to reconstruct the evolution of the concert hall using digital storytelling techniques and multimedia elements,” says Bruno Arizio. “We drew on archival materials, new interviews with Gehry, interactive 3-D models, dynamic typography and a soundtrack recorded by the Los Angeles Philharmonic in situ at the concert hall. We combined all these elements to craft a meaningful exploration of Gehry’s vision and creative process. In the art direction, we aimed to capture Gehry’s trademark style by incorporating his freeform sketches into the design. Using dynamic typography, we evoked the unique shapes of the concert hall, the sounds of the orchestra and Gehry’s playful personality.”
Challenges: “Reviewing the enormous quantity of wonderful content that makes up the Frank O. Gehry papers,” says Aaron Howell. “We worked side by side with the Getty Research Institute (GRI) to distill and transform this content into an interactive experience that champions both scholarly depth and the human aspect of Gehry’s architectural process.”
Time constraints: “The biggest time constraint with Sculpting Harmony came from the contrast between the slower pace of the more traditional museum world of the GRI and the faster pace of our interactive development,” says Howell. “We were very lucky that Getty’s digital team helped bridge that gap to maintain important milestones.”
Navigation structure: “Essentially, the site functions as an interactive documentary,” says Arizio. “To get the most out of this medium, we wanted to give the audience a framework for exploration without putting them on rails. We landed on a semi-linear structure that provides a solid foundation to tell the story of the concert hall from concept to completion while allowing for some freedom of exploration by providing opportunities to dive deeper into content at appropriate moments.”
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