by Polly Bennett. Published: 01 June 2012

Perched atop stacks of electronics equipment, above ALICE’s magnificent cavern space, the ALICE exhibition tells the story of the experiment. It consists of a collection of detector prototypes, as well as components and electronics from each detector. The walls are plastered with posters and cards to explain the origin of the Universe, Quark Gluon Plasma and the particles and processes ALICE is intent on studying. As one of the only parts of the experiment visitors can see when the LHC is running, it is an important outreach and communication tool for ALICE.

Polly Bennett

One of the proposals for the updated exhibition space

Visitors rely on their guides, various ALICE members, to make sense of the space and its contents. To improve the exhibition space ALICE has enlisted the aid of interior and product designer Cindy Gruenendahl, who specialises in commercial spaces. “I’m here to see what can be improved on the interior layout of the exhibition; it needs an update. Because different people came in to tell different aspects of the experiment, there are different styles of visual communication, which at times lack consistency. This can make it hard to navigate through an exhibit.” However, on her first visit to the exhibition Cindy said, “I’m impressed how there is a small space created within the larger space at point 2 to tell the story of ALICE. And that this visitor centre is on-site. I like the idea of being in the element of ALICE and having a special area [to tell the story] within that element.”

Cindy spent the first few days conducting a site survey at the exhibition, to research the space and how it could be more effectively utilised. “I visited the site as much as possible, asked questions, and researched how ALICE displays information in books, websites, and images. After this I put my notes and pictures together to map out a plan using data, images, exhibit items, site dimensions and so on. My objective is to enhance the visitor experience by making their visit more effective through design.” It took about 10 days to design and render three different proposals. She adds, “It’s still a work in progress, but thus far ALICE liked my ideas. Next, we will be working together to design some objects for the ‘ALICE shop’.”

As she chats about design in general Cindy explains what captivates her about projects like this. “I like working with space and creating a context for how people navigate through it. The function of the space guides me to a design. The role of the user is also very important to creating a successful environment. In the end, I hope to have created a comprehensible three-dimensional journey and representation of ALICE.”