Pedalling towards sustainable urban mobility

design of an interactive exhibit to inspire visitor's attitude transformation

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Environmentalists recently attracted a lot of international attention with controversial actions, including throwing food against famous paintings in art museums. Which is worth more, art or life? The fragility of art is similar to the fragility of the earth itself. But as quickly as the bunch of climate activists appeared in all the newspapers, they also disappeared from the public’s mind.

The general public has become accustomed to yet another climate stunt. Some form of awareness is there, but acting on it, many people omit. Before even a slight adjustment of behaviour, our fast-paced society is already distracted by the next new soap opera, a new car or pondering about the impact of our next plane trip.

Museums recognise their changing role in this society. Museums should no longer just entertain and amaze, they should from time to time be able to chafe, awaken us and urge us to change our behaviour. Topics such as sustainability, climate change and the energy transition lend themselves well to this. The urge to change a behaviour can be caused by a transformative learning experience. For example, experiencing the real-life effects of climate change in rural countries can completely change a person’s relationship with their self-world, thereby producing lasting changes in attitude and behaviour. Museon-Omniversum, a science museum, would like to research such a transformative learning experience for a new exhibit in a mobility zone of their current exhibition One Planet NOW!.

Several research activities have been done to understand transformative experiences and place them in a museum context. A literature review, expert interviews, museum visits, and observations resulted in a set of 12 guide cards that can support the design of a transformative museum exhibit.

Following from research, cycling as a sustainable mode of transport was chosen as an exhibit topic. Besides, the findings resulted in a transformative museum experience journey, which in turn inspired a specified design goal.

Subsequently, various ideas were generated in brainstorming and creative sessions and translated into physical prototypes. Evaluation tests with these prototypes gave insights into the experiences and effects of the developed ideas. These insights resulted in the development of the final exhibit: ‘Pedalling towards sustainable urban mobility’. An exhibit which aims to let visitors explore and reflect on the mode of transport they travel with throughout the city.

The interactive exhibit is a hands-on experience that introduces visitors to a city where bikes are the main mode of transport. Visitors can magically discover a hopeful future vision of a bicycle city, where an intersection has been transformed into a version without cars. They are encouraged to explore what is going on in this world. Would they want to live in a city like this? The exhibition’s connecting part deals with transport's influence on urban planning. Visitors will have the opportunity to reflect on how transport choices affect the construction of a city.

Overall the exhibit successfully aims to inspire a sustainable urban mobility transformation. However, further alterations are needed to improve the design and test the impact over a longer period. Short-term design recommendations for improving the exhibit to be fully stand-alone and operational have been given. In addition, suggestions for long-term research and design activities have been made.