formula D_ has worked on experiences and attractions for museums and visitors’ centres all over the world but our team is particularly proud of the work we’ve done for institutions in the city of Cape Town and the Western Cape province of South Africa, which we call home.
The province, which has one of the most diverse populations in South Africa, comprising over seven million people, is bordered by the ocean to the west and south. Inland it features some of the most exceptional wineries (and brandy distillers) in the world, as well as some of the most high-profile fine-dining establishments in Africa. Plus, of course, right in the middle of Cape Town is one of the most famous natural landmarks in the world: Table Mountain. This mix of culture and pristine environment draws millions of tourists every year.
Consequently, the projects we’ve worked on have been designed for both international tourists and South Africans – including Capetonians – who are wanting to explore their country. The projects showcase various aspects of our city’s history and its diverse cultures and heritages, while also educating visitors about sustainability, ocean science, and the environment. There is so much to see that tourists tend to linger longer in the city to explore all the attractions and then set aside multiple days for various day trips to outlying areas to explore those places as well. Depending on the location and the purpose, some attractions are specifically designed for young people, while others are suitable for all ages. In every example there is an educational component, even if the primary purpose is entertainment.
Cape Town is the oldest city in South Africa and the city centre alone features dozens of museums that explore history, culture, science, and art. We worked with the City Of Cape Town and The Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation when it restored The Old Granary neo-classical building in Buitenkant Street, which has a complicated 200-year history that includes being a bakery; a customs house that dealt with imports and exports, as well as the movement of emancipated slaves from the colonial oceanic slave trade; and a granary. We installed a small museum of interactive and digital exhibits that connect visitors to the history through audiovisual storytelling.
About a kilometre away, in St John’s Street/Hatfield Street, are both the Cape Town Holocaust & Genocide Centre and the South African Jewish Museum. We helped the Cape Town Holocaust & Genocide Centre to restructure and redesign its exhibits, including installing a projection to showcase art by children from the period and an interactive touchscreen display to allow visitors to learn about places and families in Latvia and Lithuania that were affected by World War II. For the South African Jewish Museum we designed an interactive touchscreen lectern, with a content-management system forming the backend that makes it easy for the museum to update and edit the content, which lets visitors browse through profiles of Jewish people who have made significant contributions to South Africa in areas such as the arts, sports, politics, business.
Also in the city is the V&A Waterfront, one of the top tourism destinations in the country, and within that is the Two Oceans Aquarium, which showcases the diverse marine life to be found in and around South Africa’s waters and also educates about pollution and sustainability. For the aquarium’s youngest visitors we designed and built the Smart Living Challenge Zone, four exhibits that are intended to be highly interactive through physical play, and which can also easily be adapted to the city in which they are installed. (We recently built a version of this exhibit for the Roper Mountain Science Center in South Carolina the USA.)
The Smart Living Challenge Zone’s Waste Wall showcases common household items one can buy in local stores. Children can scan the objects’ bar codes to learn about their impact on pollution and landfills. The Cityscape Energy Exhibit teaches about power generation and requirements across a city through a touchscreen interface that allows the user to experiment with variables, with the results of the changes projected onto a physical 3D representation of a city. The Water Wall projects a system of leaking pipes onto a wall and teaches the principles of water conservation. The Biodiversity exhibit shows an animation of an environment filled with local flora and fauna and, through interactive tabs that can be pulled up or pushed down, how various factors impact that environment, either helping it to sustain itself or causing pollution and damage.
South of Cape Town, along the Southern Peninsula, is the seaside suburb of Kalk Bay, where the Save Our Seas Foundation Shark Education Centre can be found. For this conservation organisation, as well as the Phillip And Patricia Frost Museum Of Science in Florida in the USA, we built the striking Shark Sense exhibit, which is designed to look like a shark’s head. A 3D virtual reality underwater world is projected inside the head, which can be moved with handlebars and which also vibrates to mimic how a shark interacts with the magnetic field around it. For the Save Our Seas Foundation Shark Education Centre we also designed a multitouch-table experience that educates visitors about various shark species as they navigate a boat along its surface to investigate the various sharks they spot in the water.
In Khayelitsha, one of Cape Town’s biggest suburbs and a former apartheid township area where citizens were relocated from other suburbs to enforce racial segregation, the Khayelitsha Memory Centre forms a vital community function of connecting its inhabitants to the area’s history. We worked with the community to design projects that would help ignite conversation about preserving the community’s oral history and memories.
Stellenbosch Business School, which is part of Stellenbosch University in the Western Cape town of Stellenbosch, is situated in Cape Town’s northern suburb of Bellville. We were commissioned to come up with a new way to promote the school and the courses it offers to set it apart from other universities and colleges in what is a very competitive educational environment, in order to entice prospective students from all over the country to choose Stellenbosch as their educational home. We designed a virtual reality experience – an interactive, living brochure – with which prospective students could interact with alumni from each course in the alumnus’s favourite location in the Cape Town. The brochure is also, effectively, an interactive tourism showcase of the best that the city has to offer those who might be far from home.
The town of Stellenbosch itself, which is about 50 kilometres from Cape Town, is one of the province’s most famous wine-making regions. For Hazendal Wine Estate we built the Wonderdal Kids’ Edutainment Centre, a collection of interactive edutainment experiences that feature a virtual tour guide who takes children through a series of activities (aided by Wonderdal’s trained supervisors) that teach concepts related to science, life skills, and physical aptitude. The centre is designed to keep children occupied for hours, giving their parents time to explore the wine farm.
Along the southern coast, about 120 kilometres from Cape Town (roughly an hour-and-a-half drive), is the seaside town of Hermanus, an internationally renowned spot for watching southern right whales that visit Walker Bay. Here The Whale House Museum, a visitor attraction in The Old Harbour Museum heritage complex, teaches visitors about whales and ocean conservation with exhibits that are especially suitable for children. We upgraded and modernised the museum with new exhibits and also revamped older ones, including the existing “submarine” experience that uses video and audio narration to take visitors on a dive under the water to explore the ocean life at different depths.
Our home is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. No matter where you are, you will either be able to see the ocean or the mountain (or, if you’re particularly lucky, both at the same time). Nature is infused in our DNA and so, too, is the urge to conserve our water; protect our flora, fauna, and environmental resources; and promote our heritage. The projects we’ve taken on for institutions in the Western Cape all reflect this ethos as they showcase the best we have to offer the world.