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With our new project, we fly at higher game: out of 12 international companies, the Danish Nature Agency chose us to design an exhibition about migratory birds in Skagen, Denmark. The Bird Observatory will be an international communication and research centre for both common visitors and professional bird experts, housed in Skagen’s historic Grey Lighthouse. Next to the exhibition, the centre will accommodate an associated scientific bird and ringing station, a shop and a mini café. It is expected to open in spring 2017.

Denmark lies on the main bird migration routes between continental Europe and the rest of Scandinavia and therefore offers a wealth of birdlife all year round. Especially the Skagen region is a paradise for bird watchers and attracts more than a million visitors each year. The exhibition concept leverages the authenticity of the place, where the aura of the historical landmark and the real scientific work on site render the experience uniquely location specific. The old light keeper’s house will be restored carefully to the look and feel of a typical building of its time, this sets the frame for the exhibition design.

The visitor experience balances between spectacular, poetic, authentic and informative. Due to digital interactive exhibits and atmospheric installations, the exhibition has a high level of adaptability to new content and concepts. While much of the information is conveyed through digital displays, hands-on exhibits provide an important contrast to contextualise the stories and give tangible feel to the visitors. Every single element in the exhibition builds up a general scenography, where the physical space is designed together with the digital. The main approach is to keep the building in its near-to-original form and to integrate the exhibition carefully.

A central challenge for ART+COM lies in the integration of local, national and international real time data on bird observations, connected to the story they are focussing on. Numerous exhibits will combine scientific data with interpretation: where experts can decipher the data visualisation directly, the narrated stories and illustrations make the core messages also accessible to the general public.

Given the annual fluctuation in the visitor numbers, the experience also has to adapt to the different situations. In peak times, a group oriented, choreographed narrative paces the audience through the building. The low season provides more extensive exploration and interactive features, where individual visitors can explore the content at their own speed.

Through participatory elements and a strong online presence there will be plenty of opportunities to continue being involved from before to long after the visit, encouraging engagement through social media and repeat visits, perhaps with a new perspective as a bird enthusiast.

The Danish Nature Agency is an organisation under the Danish Ministry of Environment. The Nature Agency implements the government’s policies concerning nature and environment. The Nature Agency aims to secure clean water, protecting and securing nature, planning for cities and landscape, outdoor activities and information to the public about nature, forestry and land management of the state forests, gaming and wildlife management.