Sendai Astronomical Observatory

This project is a new space observatory in the city of Sendai, a short bullet train ride north of Tokyo. When we were asked to propose a route to help ‘glue’ the graphics of the centre together, we realised that first some research was needed. As we trawled through astrological and cosmological textbooks, we discovered that the books written for children were the most help – they didn’t confuse us with jargon or overload us with complexity.

As we spent more time on this, we wondered if a design route that ‘explained’ the cosmos might be viable – a route that ‘brought the cosmos down to earth’, as it were.

We began looking for examples we could use, such as, when stars cluster together they behave a little like two eggs in a frying pan. Or the relationship of a cup to a saucer helping to explain planets and their rings.

In parallel we were developing a bilingual typographic ‘arrow' that would work in eight different directions, and could be used to point to the visual examples being developed.

Here's an illustration of the elements combined - the arrow logo points to an image pair that explains the motion of the Milky Way with the use of a common-or-garden washing machine and its contents.

These image pairs show the motion of planets (with the help of a group of runners) whilst an ice cream usefully explains a planet's crust and its core.

15 image pairs were created in total, which were then rolled out across the observatory and its collateral - above, bags from the shop, below, applications within the exhibition areas and public spaces.

Here's the symbol in massive metal letters on the side of the building.