Orbi: Multi-sensory experience by BBC Earth and SEGA

I first read about it in an article of The Telegraph in June 2013 and was very interested to know more about it. Well, now it’s open and it’s in Yokohama, Japan.

This collaboration between BBC Earth and SEGA takes natural history museum to a whole new dimension. They call it ‘nature supercharged’, enjoy the video!

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Rebooting Science Museums for the 21st Century

I am quite fascinated by Science Centres. This probably dates back from my first encounter with the Cite des Sciences et de l’Industrie in Paris, which was my favorite place to go as a kid. Mum would always complain that is was too far i.e. in the North East of Paris when we lived in the South West! But I just remember staying there for ours and trying all their exhibits, feeling excited about the world’s mysteries explained to me.

Just last night I was listening to a radio interview on NPR with guests from the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History, Museum of Life & Science in Durham, NC, the San Francisco Exploratorium and the Dublin Science Gallery. It was about the science museum of the future. Although all guests were from matured markets – USA, Europe – I think some of their ideas had a global resonance including here in Asia.

The Science Gallery in Dublin is only 5 years old and already one of the city’s top attractions. Their approach is definitely new: not a science museum, not an art gallery but both, melting science with art. They recognize that their audience and the environment they live in is always changing and therefore they need to constantly bring new exhibitions and events like an art gallery would do. They also believe in using art as a tool to educate about science. And they even push the boundaries sometimes to attract the hard-to-get crowd of 15-25yo. Recently they had an exhibition on bio art, which had to have a ‘funeral’ when it ended to dispose of the art. I wish I had seen that!

The challenge for long-standing institutions is to deal with an audience that has changed and wants to participate in the experience and with new environmental paradigms (climate change, etc). The Smithsonian – with 200 scientists and a great deal of ongoing research – is flipping the traditional museum inside out by bringing the ‘behind the scenes’ to its audience. The Museum of Life & Science is doing something similar with a one-month long challenge where visitors participate in an research project with daily tasks. And this produces real data, used for real research. Now, that’s revolutionary, a genuine two-way exchange between the museum and its audience.

The participants also talked about science lounges / cafes / hackerspaces and the individualization of museum experience through technology but to me the two ideas I will remember are:

– Combining art and science

– Turning your audience into one of your scientist/curator

So, what do you think? Have you come across any other idea worth sharing to reinvent the science museum of the future?

World’s largest private museum

“With this ambitious, surreal museum, China will score one more point to tip cultural world travelers towards its modern marvels instead of Europe’s historical monuments.” Skift

While economically depressed Europe relies on its long-established cultural attractions and ancient sites to attract tourists, China is building ever more daring developments that, for fans of extravagant architecture, could well demand a future visit.

After the recent opening of the world’s biggest building in Chengdu, the country is preparing to welcome another superlative structure with the announcement that Pingtan Art Museum, the largest private museum in Asia, is to be built on an artificial island in city of Pingtan.

If the city seems unfamiliar that’s because it doesn’t exist yet. To be constructed on the island of Pingtan in China’s Fujian province, the new city is still being planned and the Pingtan Art Museum is to be its cultural centrepiece. Claiming a construction area of over 40,000sq metres, the RMB800million ($130 million) development is intended to act as a smaller scale island off Pingtan Island itself and will be connected to the larger land mass by a slightly undulating pier. The gallery and its environs have been designed by Beijing-based architects MAD who say it “represents a long-lasting earthscape in water and is a symbol of the island in ancient times, with each island containing a mountain beneath it.” The building will be constructed with concrete blended with local shells and the interior is intended to resemble ancient caves.

The planning and development of Pingtan Art Museum began in 2011 but, as is the case with Pingtan city, a completion date for the project hasn’t been confirmed. Pingtan Art Museum will be home to over 1,000 national treasures when complete. Pingtan is the closest island to Taiwan and MAD claims the area will become the primary location for trade and cultural communication between Taiwan and mainland China in future. Taiwan is already home to the National Palace Museum, a similarly ambitious cultural attraction that displays a huge selection of Asian artefacts and artworks.

INTERVIEW: Dr Amy Chan on Cultural Tourism, Hong Kong and more

I met Dr Amy Chan on 20th August on the day of the Hungry Ghost Festival and we had a good chat about Cultural Tourism, Chinese tourists and Hong Kong as a destination. Here are a few quotes I like:

“The Mainland Chinese have skipped a lot of things in our consumer society; even with tourism it’s the same.”

“If you want to see some colonial architecture you can go to Macau. If you want to see Chinese culture without having to speak Chinese you can go to Singapore. And if you want to go shopping you can go to Bangkok.”

“We have to find what Hong Kong values are still attractive, still distinctive and how we can package that and sell it as tourism product.”

Dr Chan Kit-sze Amy is Associate Professor at the Shue Yan University in Hong Kong and Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong where she teaches “The Culture of Travel and the Travel of Culture”. She holds a PhD in Intercultural Studies from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Genting’s world of resorts

In preparation for the upcoming Theme Parks & Resorts World Conference in Shanghai on 5-6 Sept, here I look at how the Genting model of integrated resorts is spreading around the world.

Recently Genting Group announced a major upgrade plan to bring new life into its Malaysian property in the Genting Highlands with the addition of a full-fledged 20th Century Fox outdoor theme park.

This is not the first time Genting goes big and bold. In the last few years we’ve seen the acquisition of a prime site in Miami, the opening of Resorts World Singapore and New York and more recently the launch of Resorts World Bimini as the world’s first cruise destination resort.

But how did that happen? How do you go from one property outside of Kuala Lumpur to being the world’s leading integrated resorts company? Well, let’s have a look, shall we?

Take Risk. Move Fast.

Being tightly run by Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay, the son of Genting’s founder, the group has the ability to move fast and take some risks. They thrive when the environment – legal, economic or political – is unfavorable but offer great opportunities for someone with a vision. And that vision comes from Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong – the founder – who decided to build Malaysia’s largest resort up a steep mountain, which did not even have an access road!

In New York, Genting invested US$450million to renovate and add slot machines at the Aqueduct racetrack in the midst of a scandal involving US politicians. Risky maybe, but being a non-US company certainly helped.

In Manila, at a time when nobody would have bet on the recovery of the Filipino economy Genting managed to close a deal in record time with local developer Alliance Global Group who was struggling to complete its mixed-use development at Terminal 3 of NAIA airport, which itself had remained unfinished and closed for more than 3 years. Together with their local partner, Genting managed to pull a few strings and the development – rebranded Resorts World Manila – now boasts 3 hotels and a 30,000sqm casino.

And in Las Vegas, Genting is adopting the same strategy again. They recently announced the acquisition of Echelon Place, another unfinished project, which they can probably turn around and open within 2 years.

Pioneering.

Beyond thriving in unfavorable environments, Genting has successfully ridden various economic crises. This is what I would call their pioneering instinct.

1997 is the year Genting decided to start construction of the world’s largest hotel – First World Hotel – in the midst of the Asian financial crisis. They did it again in 2003 when they announced the launch of Star Cruises in a market just hit by SARS.

And this applies outside Asia too. The group’s recent aggressive expansion in the US started as the country was not yet recovered from the Great Recession. Same in Birmingham, where Genting announced a £150million development in a city hit by the European economic crisis.

Succeed where others fail.

When it comes to dealing with authorities, Genting will always tap their insecurities, concerns and expectations.

When bidding for a casino license in Singapore, they capitalized on the rivalry between Hong Kong and Singapore by proposing Universal Studios to compete with Disneyland and Marine Life Park to compete with Ocean Park, all in the same integrated resort!

Genting’s track record and experience with a variety of markets – including Asian – is also something authorities like. In New York, Genting is committed to putting in place programs to attract tourists from the nearby JFK airport and not only local Queens residents. In Las Vegas, their recent road show was all about demonstrating how they will attract Chinese and Asian tourists, which is high on the agenda of all US tourist destinations and critical for their survival.

Family friendly.

Genting is probably the only casino operator who knows how to build a family friendly resort. This is strong in their DNA since Genting Highlands started as a mountain resort for the enjoyment of ‘all Malaysians’.

In many ways Genting is shaping the family entertainment industry through their unique concept of integrated resorts. They brought Universal Studios to Singapore and now 20th Century Fox to Malaysia, they started the first cruise destination resort in the Bahamas and when they come to Vegas in 2016 expect to see a live panda habitat, replica of the Great Wall, indoor water park and more.

Location. Location.

Loyal to their Malaysian Chinese roots, Genting are excellent real estate people and they understand the value of a good location.

Whether it’s in New York where they are within 10 miles of a population of 5.6million, or in Singapore where they can tap in the huge Malaysian market – brought-in by coach loads – across the border in addition to a strong tourism from the rest of Asia into the city, or in Kuala Lumpur where they are within 1h drive of a population of nearly 6million, Genting’s Resorts World properties are guaranteed good traffic. A must for casinos!

And that leads to my final note. None of this would have been possible without casino licenses. So the question is: What comes first? The vision of building superior integrated resorts for ‘all’ families or the corporate drive of winning more casino licenses?

The Future of Wanchai

Today I went to shoot my first video at the Hong Kong Arts Centre for their monthly Arts Experience lunch session.

This emotional performance mixes storytelling and live music to send one simple message: the future of Wanchai is yours…

PS: sorry for the transitions, I still have to improve my editing skills!

Museums as lifestyle destinations

For a recent project in Singapore, we looked at how to introduce a museum concept in Sentosa that would be fun and exciting whilst showcasing Singapore’s values to the world: a place where visitors could experience Singapore’s culture & heritage.

Our vision was that a form of cultural entertainment would belong to the Sentosa of tomorrow, one that fosters creativity and a more connected Singapore.

We were inspired by the recent changes in the culture and heritage environment in Singapore (museums, art galleries, theatres) as well as the strong push for lifestyle tourism by the government. We imagined a place that would be a lifestyle destination where the museum is the start of a much more engaging experience.

Focus groups conducted by Ipsos showed that retail and dining where of prime importance for Asian tourists so they had to be fully integrated in the overall concept. Also we realized local Singaporeans showed a strong need for edutainment and community activities.

The solutions we proposed were:

  • A retail concept with thematic corners for the different exhibits in the museum, in partnership with renown Singaporean brands
  • A cafe concept where the museum visit would continue in the backstage of the cafe with a ‘hidden’ room accessible to all diners and serving as a teaser for the museum
  • A dedicated space for temporary exhibitions in partnership with other museums/organizations in Singapore to create a link between Sentosa and the main island
  • A program of activities such as children theatre, live music, workshops and a monthly flea market
  • A creative space putting Singapore on the cultural map of Singapore, for example as one of the venues for the various arts and cultural festivals year around

Just today I was reading about Walt Disney Imagineering designing an exhibition for the Autry Museum in Los Angeles and when I looked at their website I saw exactly what I hope our Singapore project will look like one day.

Autry

What I find very interesting is that when you click overview it is not about the various exhibits but about the activities and the life at the museum. Now that’s where I think museums belong, they are lifestyle destinations. What do you think?