The Bupa Magic Garden - Sydney's Popular Attraction
The Bupa Magic Garden was a permanent interactive exhibition from 2008-2014, a flagship exhibition at Sydney's Powerhouse Museum. Its popularity with families ensured it balanced visitor densities with larger international block busters like Star Wars, and helped the museum attract over 420,000 annual visitors. It grew through word of mouth into a cultural phenomenon on the streets of Sydney, and you could hear families of all ages saying the Magic Garden was the place to be, to take your children and grand children.
The high tech education play space was a first of its kind in many ways. It enabled families to learn through play about "Healthy Eating and Healthy Exercise". It was the first time children's Philosophy had been implemented in self-directed games and interactives and it was highlighted as an innovation by the Institute of Children's Philosophy at the University of New South Wales. The Time Machine by Sylvie Gustafsson was a prime example and a popular hit with children who were spending record time engrossed helping Joey the Kangaroo, a fictional character in a story, make life changing decisions.
The interactive exhibition was developed with the aid of many different specialists both in the medical, creative, cultural and technical fields, and the amazing team of staff in the Department of Interactives.
The vision for the design was to provide a space where families could actively engage in fitness and healthy food rather than reading or being spoken to about it. From observation and listening to visitors and the Museum's staff I think it has given much more to the many families who routinely returned. During School holidays it was often difficult to see through the throngs of children and parents working together assembling a healthy virtual picnic at the Picnic Table or catching virtual butterflies, chasing fish and splashing in the digitally projected Rock Pool.
The Bupa Magic Garden (then known as the MBF Magic Garden) was our first project for the Museum and one that I lead creatively and enjoyed the most. It took us through all the phases from R&D to installation: research of the topic and child development with support from health authorities and specialists, to design and technical experimentation, interactive content production, prototype making and testing, installation, PR launch and ongoing improvements just to name a few stages.
When you create something like the Magic Garden, it changes your life quite dramatically. Through the project I met the most awesome creative people and went on to develop and apply my own theories in the science of play and what makes interactive experiences and games a popular hits.
You can see the making of the space here.