This week, the London Science Museum will open Winton Gallery, a new space dedicated to the study and exploration of mathematics, designed by Zaha Hadid Architects. Although this is the first permanent public exhibition conceived by the office, it is also the first ZHA project in the UK since Haddid passed away in March this year.
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Inspired by the Handley Page aircraft, the space design was conceived by observing airflow equations used in the aviation industry. The layout and lines of the gallery, therefore, represent the movement of air around this historic aircraft in flight – a metaphor that extends from the positioning of the windows and benches to the curved surfaces of the structure.
Positioned in the center of the gallery is the Handley Page ‘Gugnunc’ aircraft, built in 1929 for a competition to build an aircraft that could operate safely. According to the Science Museum, “cutting-edge research into aerodynamics has influenced the design of the wings of this experimental aircraft, helping to change public opinion about flight safety and secure the future of the aviation industry.” The aircraft thus represents the theme of the gallery, illustrating how the practice of mathematics has helped solve real-world problems and, in this case, paved the way for today’s commercial flights.
According to the architects, “our project for the Gallery responds to the ambition of David Rooney and his team to present mathematics not as an academic concept but as a practice that influences technology and allows the environment around us to be transformed Tools have always played a central role in the evolution of human understanding of nature and the built world: for example, Sir Isaac Newton’s methods for deriving the laws of gravitation, Poincaré’s extension of Cartesian geometries to the planetary system, and the use Made Lord Kelvin’s mathematical technique of curve fitting to predict the tides.”
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