The Science Museum in London has today opened a new gallery dedicated to mathematics. Designed by Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA), Mathematics: The Winton Gallery will shed light on the importance of math and the role it has played in history and our lives today. The gallery is the first project of ZHA’s to be completed in the UK following Zaha Hadid’s passing earlier this year.
“When I was growing up in Iraq, math was an everyday part of life,” said Hadid before she died. “My parents instilled in me a passion for discovery, and they never made a distinction between science and creativity. We would play with math problems just as we would play with pens and paper to draw—math was like sketching.”
Exhibiting their typical parametric style—fitting for the context—ZHA filled the space with a series of undulating volumes that derive their forms from the aerodynamics of the Handley Page ‘Gugnunc’ airplane. Designed in 1929, the aircraft heavily influenced the aviation industry. Aerodynamic research on the aircraft paved the way for future wing designs and furthered public aviation transit with its revolutionary approach to safety. ZHA’s design for the gallery uses equations relating to airflow around the plane to form their curvaceous installations which have placed around the the Gugnunc. A video (below) details the firm’s process.
The plane is just one of more than 100 artifacts on display throughout the gallery. The pieces have been collected from the Science Museum’s collection of works relating to technology, engineering, and mathematics to tell the story of how numbers shaped our world, impacting trade, travel, war, peace, life, death, form, and even beauty. Objects range from a 17th-century Islamic astrolabe once used to map stars to an early version of the Enigma machine designed by Alan Turing and his team to crack Nazi code in WWII. Aside from the artifacts, archival photography and film are also used to tell the story of mathematics and introduce the people behind the exhibited pieces.
In a press release, Curator Dr. David Rooney said:
At its heart this gallery reveals a rich cultural story of human endeavour that has helped transform the world over the last four hundred years. Mathematical practice underpins so many aspects of our lives and work, and we hope that bringing together these remarkable stories, people and exhibits will inspire visitors to think about the role of mathematics in a new light.
Ian Blatchford, Director of the Science Museum Group, meanwhile commented:
It was a terrible shock for us all when Dame Zaha died suddenly in March this year, but I am sure that this gallery will be a lasting tribute to this world-changing architect and provide inspiration for our millions of visitors for many years to come.