Science Museum’s Math Gallery soars with a stunning Zaha Hadid design.
New gallery tells stories of how math underpins the world. The design 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 enables the environment around us to be transformed. Mathematics and its tools have always played a central role in the evolution of the human understanding of nature and the constructed world: for example, Sir Isaac Newton’s methods to derive the laws of gravitation, Henri Poincaré’s extension of the Cartesian geometries to the planetary system and Lord Kelvin’s use of the mathematical technique of curve-fitting to predict the tides.
Mathematics underlies all science, so for a science museum to be worthy of the name, math needs to be included somewhere. Yet math, which deals mainly in in the abstract, is a challenge for museums, which necessarily contains physical ones. The Science Museum’s approach in its new gallery is to tell historical stories about the influence of mathematics in the real world, rather than focusing directly on the mathematical ideas involved. The result is a stunning gallery, with fascinating objects beautifully laid out, yet which eschews explaining any math. (If you want to learn simple mathematical ideas, you can always head to the museum’s new interactive gallery, Wonderlab).
Hanging from the ceiling is an airplane – the Handley Page ‘Gugnunc’, built in 1929 for a competition to build safe aircraft – and surrounding it is a swirly ceiling sculpture that represents the mathematical equations that describe airflow. In fact, the entire gallery follows the contours of the flow, providing the positions of the cabinets below.
Mathematics has had a profound influence on architectural shapes and forms (known as morphology) and their origins, basing them on sound structural principles. The enhancement of the performative aspects of design with respect to the built environment, its manufacture and ultimately the comfortable navigation by people within these environments, forms an integral part of building on these foundations.
In a section on “form and beauty”, there is a modern replica of a 1920s chair based on French architect’s Le Corbusier’s Modular system of proportions, and two J W Turner sketches from his Royal Academy lectures on perspective.
The Wonder Theatres were five giant, lavish movie palaces that opened around
New York City in 1929 and 1930. While cinemas were plentiful at the time, the Wonder Theatres were a cut above the rest. Built as Loew’s flagship theatres, the opulent venues were designed with all the fabulousness of the Jazz Age, and went on to provide an escape into the fantasy of Hollywood and luxury throughout the Great Depression and Second World War.
The last of the Wonder Theatres to open was the Loew’s 175th Street Theatre, today known as the United Palace Theater. It debuted on February 22, 1930, with showings of the films Their Own Desire and Pearls and vaudeville performances
starring Al Shaw and Sam Lee. The theater is a sight to behold. The lavish interior, much of which is filigreed, features authentic Louis XV and XVI furnishings and ornate chandeliers, while the blocky exterior is reminiscent of Mayan architecture. Its eclectic architectural style, designed by Thomas W. Lamb, was described by The New York Times as “Byzantine-Romanesque-Indo-Hindu-Sino-Moorish-Persian-Eclectic-Rococo-Deco” and a “kitchen sink masterpiece.” With more than
3,000 seats, it is still the fourth largest venue of its kind in Manhattan.
Movie palaces eventually fell out of vogue, however, and the grand Wonder Theatres fell into decline and abandon in the late 60s and
through the 70s. Today, two of the theaters (the Jersey Theatre in Jersey City and Kings Theatre in Brooklyn) still serve as cinemas and performance venues. Another two (the Paradise Theatre in the Bronx and Valencia Theatre in Queens) became churches.
The United Palace Theater, located in upper Manhattan’s Washington Heights, found a second life as a unique mix of both.
The former Wonder Theatre still functions as a church, as well as a movie house with a 50-foot screen, and a performance venue that has brought in acts as diverse as Adele, Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop, and the Berlin Philharmonic. It also serves as a cultural and community arts center, opened by Reverend Ike’s son Xavier Eikerenkoetter, who now oversees operations of the historic venue.
If you are ever driving from Nashville to Memphis something you won’t want to miss is the Tina Turner Museum. As a huge fan of her, her music is as apropos today as it’s ever been. In fact, I suspect Lady Gaga takes inspiration from her performances. Born Anna Mae Bullock in Nutbush, Tennessee, she became a Swiss citizen in 2013 and relinquished her American citizenship.
The one-room Flagg Grove School was one of the first schools for African Americans in the South, built in the 1880s. It was originally located in the small town of Nutbush, where Turner grew up and attended grade school in the rustic building in the 1940s.
The school, among the first in the South for African-Americans, was built in the
1880s by her great-uncle, Benjamin Flagg.