Midlands & East Anglia

Made in Birmingham: redeveloping Thinktank

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Thinktank Science Museum Gallery- Birmingham Millennium Point building

Located within Birmingham’s impressive Millennium Point building, Thinktank is an innovative science museum offering visitors fascinating insights into the subjects of science and technology.

Thinktank opened in 2001 and features over 200 hands-on displays, a state-of-the-art digital planetarium, a fantastic new Science Garden and a full programme of exciting activities for all the family.

At present, Thinktank is undergoing an extensive programme of refurbishment works to improve the first floor gallery. The project, known as Made in Birmingham, comprises the complete refurbishment of the gallery and the introduction of new exhibits.

To help facilitate the project the dining area has been removed from the first floor of the museum and is now located on the lower ground floor.

Work began on the Made in Birmingham project in June 2012 with the complete strip out of Level 0 and Level 1 of the site. The refurbishment works are currently scheduled to reach completion in November 2012 and will be followed by a complete fit-out scheme to install the new science equipment.

Once work is complete on the project the new gallery will focus on displays and exhibits which showcase production and manufacturing procedures that are closely linked to the West Midlands area.

During the programme of works Thinktank remains open to the public and all efforts are being made to keep visitors updated on which areas of the site are closed.

Beck Interiors Ltd is the main fit-out specialist contractor on the Made in Birmingham project, whilst At Large is the exhibition designer. Beck Interiors has been appointed as the main contractor to undertake the refurbishment of two galleries on the site and was responsible for transforming Level 0 into a multifunctional dining area.

Thinktank Science Museum Gallery- Birmingham Millennium Point building

Gavin Ridley, Beck Interiors, said:

“Following the careful disassembly and removal of the existing displays, we are currently installing a raised access floor with integral structural supports in readiness to accept the objects as part of the gallery transformation. Works also include, bespoke floor finishes, electrical & lighting, display cases, graphics, decorations, setworks and artefact display plinths.

“Beck Interiors is proud to be associated with this exciting project that will further enhance the Thinktank visitor experience.”

Eleanor Clarke of Focus Consultants LLP is the project manager and is overseeing all of the redevelopment work at Thinktank.

Focus Consultants LLP Project Manager, Eleanor Clarke, said:

“We have been involved with Thinktank since 2008; from getting the funding in place to starting work on the new gallery and completing the recent Science Garden.

“The work that we are conducting is very much targeted at people who wouldn’t normally attend a museum, and we want to show people where industrial Birmingham has come from and where it is heading in the future.

“The new Made in Birmingham gallery will be highly interactive and will include exhibits which highlight the reasons as to why certain materials are selected when products are being manufactured.

“In addition, as there is a strong history of car manufacturing in Birmingham the gallery will also include an exhibition focusing on the Mini and all its unique components.”

Made in Birmingham is part of a much larger scheme that is currently underway to regenerate services and provisions at Thinktank. The refurbishment of the gallery follows the recent completion of the site’s new Science Garden which opened to the public in June 2012.

The Science Garden is an outdoor discovery space, loaded with interactive exhibits and attractions which are designed to appeal to all the family.

Work began on the £2.8 million Science Garden in October 2011. Fitzgerald Civil Engineering Contractors completed all of the groundworks and landscaping on the project whilst Science Projects was responsible for the installation of the new science equipment.

International urban and landscape designers, Gillespies, were responsible for the design work on the Science Garden, whilst Outside Studios designed the exhibits.

The Science Garden is situated directly outside Thinktank and is the first of its kind in the UK. All of the machines and equipment contained within the garden are linked back to exhibits within the museum and the landscaped space is divided into three distinct zones.

Zone One – Mobilise – focuses on transport, power and movement; Zone Two – Mechanise –includes the 8 metre high motion machine known as the Terminus – and Zone Three – Energise –focuses on wind, solar and human power.

Eleanor Clarke said:

“As part of Birmingham City Council’s redevelopment of Birmingham’s East Side plans were in place to create a large green space alongside Millennium Point.

“Thinktank saw this as an opportunity to create the Science Garden to sit comfortably in the middle of the wider green area. The idea was to turn Thinktank into an all-season destination with internal galleries for the winter months and an external area for the warmer summer season.

“Before we started on the new gallery we completed the Science Garden however we phased the works so that the garden would be open in time for us to move work from one area to another.

“The Science Garden is very eye-catching and can be viewed from the nearby train lines at Birmingham New Street Station. Children love it and everyone has been getting involved with the exhibits – including all age ranges and abilities.

“The new outside presence also ensures that Thinktank no longer gets lost within the Millennium Point building and despite the disappointing weather this summer the feedback has been very good.”

Made in Birmingham is being funded by Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), SITA Trust, Millennium Point Trust and a range of other charitable trusts and foundations. The Science Garden is funded by Biffa Award, the Wellcome Trust, Millennium Point Trust and other charitable trusts and foundations.

Made in Birmingham officially opens to the public in February 2013.

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