wpostServer: http://css.washingtonpost.com/wpost2
Arts Post
Posted at 05:36 PM ET, 11/17/2011

United Technologies uses design formats museums could adopt in new Washington showroom

In its new offices on Pennsylvania Avenue, United Technologies wanted to get the message out that its subsidaries, some historic American names, all fit under one umbrella.

Sikorsky, Carrier, Otis, Pratt & Whitney, and others--all makers of hefty machinery. A lineup of some models was too static, the company decided. Instead, the designers took a showroom space and they make it almost move. They installed a 3 1/2 minute, 3D film to tell more about the company. The viewer steps into the space and is immersed in a surround-sound experience. The 3D images sweep under your feet. The viewer hears the helicopter and has to stop from ducking.
Before and after views of the United Technologies showroom (Courtesy of United Technologies)

The techniques, developed by the design team of Penn Arthur, CEO at Inhance Digital Corp., are what museums have been wishing for for years: more interactives, more colorful displays and immersion to keep the digital generation engaged.

Arthur had less than 2500 square feet and low office building ceilings to work with and he had to fill it with activity. The 3D approach was ready. “It’s a neat piece of technology. We used it for NASA five years go. But here we updated that, added the curved walls and the reflections on the floor,” said Arthur.

On another wall of what is called Innovation Center --the showroom of history and products--is a huge mural of a city which the viewer can touch and make elevators, helicopters, elevators and escalators move. The viewer can watch a rescue. It can watch a cruise ship equipped with a mist fire protection product.

The challenge for the company, explained Marty Hauser, the director of United Technologies government communications, “was not to make it static but give it a sense of permanence. There is a big, robust history here.”

And Penn added the goal was “to tie them together as one family.” Some parts of the company have drawn sharp criticism, such as helicopter manufacturing, for their part in warfare. The showroom shows the connections to the military.

In encyclopedic museums that house locomotives, airplanes and cars, the digital approaches might be a solution when space is tight. Put out a few models and then create an electronic feature for how they operate and how that works in everyday life. How much can you say about an elevator? How much can you say about that patented flat belt technology? Or an airplane engine? And it’s hard to show its innerworkings but an electronic diagram and animation do the trick.

The common ground for corporations and museums is education, said Penn. “You want people to look at things from different angles and touch things without breaking,” he said.

Gregg Ward, the senior vice president Global Government Relations, said even the quickest flash on a screen of people and machinery “shows what UT can do for a person in one building.” Included in the demonstration was a monitor that follows all the energy use in a building.

Another wall, unveiled to guests Wednesday, highlights the employees in the various companies. Penn’s team created a tour of UT plants. “What would you feel like if you were walking down the hallway to the manufacturing floor,” was the scene’s goal.

Raising a profile by moving last December into the historic Washington Star building at 10th and Pennsylvania is one thing. Having people confuse your company, the 6th largest U.S. manufacturer, with the University of Tennessee Chattanooga is another.

“That happened. So here we are working for one of the best unknown companies. We had to do something to introduce ourselves to the community,” said Gregg Ward.

Viewing the showroom is by invitation and the most frequent guests will most likely be diplomats, congressmen and students.

“We had to keep it contemporary, colorful, entertaining and competitive,” said Ward. And in putting the emphasis on design, the company created a showroom, an entertaining space, and a calling card in Washington.

By  |  05:36 PM ET, 11/17/2011

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company