RAMPION VISITOR CENTRE
Rampion Visitor Centre
Science Communications, Visitor Attractions
With doors re-opening May 17th, Rampion Visitor Centre is again due to take the Sussex coast by storm - or by renewable energy.[Photo Credit: Darren Cool Images.]
Set in an idyllic seaside location, Rampion Visitor Centre is one of the UK’s newest visitor attractions dedicated to exploring the benefits of green energy. As our modern society wrestles with the realities of climate change and our human impact on the planet; the centre’s exploration of human impacts on environmental processes is more important than ever.
Being the UK south coast’s first offshore wind farm, Rampion had an important reputation to forge. They're committed to generating green, clean, sustainable energy as part of the UK’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and had a desire to raise awareness in the community of the importance of offshore wind in mitigating the effects of climate change. Alongside this, the centre aims to provide an educational experience for all to learn about the relationship between electricity and our changing climate; hoping to inspire visitors to make positive changes in reducing their own carbon footprint.
With the build of their new visitor centre on Brighton’s promenade in the works, their Development and Stakeholder Manager, Chris Tomlinson wanted a source of interaction within the exhibition, a glowing centrepiece for the venue. Something that would be unforgettable, something to draw in audiences, and to really emphasise the importance of green energy in mitigating the impacts of anthropogenic climate change. The centre was to transform key messaging and engage people young and old - so, with the assistance of Chris Nutall at creative agency, Unusual Projects, they came to the world leaders in spherical display technology. Pufferfish.
With any kind of environmental communications, its important to show context and to make otherwise complex global information accessible to all audiences. Rampion Visitor Centre was to do exactly that. It was to explore the key drivers of anthropogenic climate change since the industrial revolution on a global scale. It was to showcase the global impact of this on our world, the future scenarios if we don’t act fast, and the key role renewables have in breaking the trajectory and setting us on a safe new path.
We knew our world renowned PufferTouch2+ was the ideal solution for this powerful storytelling. The UHD systems are bright, bold, and able to be used by kids, adults, stakeholders, investors, and venue staff. They are digital campfires, intuitive interactive tools, and are an unforgettable solution for data visualisation. They ensure global data can be explored in its native format, on a globe; and as such, give a truly borderless view to complex scientific topics.
It was important when focusing on complex global topics, to create a clear app structure that respected the data, but also made it easy to understand and explore for all ages. It was decided to split the app into 3 key sections: Human Impacts, Energy and The Natural World. Within each section, content like maps, graphs and visual media would be revealed, uncovering subtopics within. This meant key contributors to climate change like transportation, population growth, energy consumption versus production, etc could all be showcased in interactive and highly visual ways. After all, data can be easy to ignore until you see the effects before your eyes.
The app was also designed to clearly show visitors how their actions can directly affect these natural processes. For example, users can toggle data on and off and see certain scenarios unfold in real time, like global sea rising and the impact on low lying coastal communities. This user-led storytelling ensures topics aren’t just understood, it’s also a potent way to stimulate changes in behaviour. The app then makes clear how using green energy sources can help reduce the impact of energy demand on fuelling greenhouse emissions, and the resultant warming.
Rampion also wanted to ensure that even when exploring complex geospatial data, a story flow was curated. With that in mind, we developed narrative progression features within the content that would lead the user through the desired storyline – whilst also allowing free exploration throughout. For example, certain hotspots pulse to encourage you to touch it and reveal the next section of maps or visual media.
As with many challenges surrounding Covid-19, the lockdown caused a shift in how we approached development work. With our technical team home based, we had to completely redesign how we developed and tested custom applications. As with all challenges though, this way of working also allowed us to redefine internal processes, and we innovated a new way of remote working and remote testing on our solutions. This in the long term will give us a more scalable, flexible platform for app building, but we were thankful for the team at Rampion for working with us on this new process – as their app was the first in Pufferfish history developed completely out of office.
Another challenge we faced was getting the right data to tell the right story for the centre. As we all know, climate change is happening each and every day – in real time. So sourcing data that would show past, present and future climate stories with analogous recorded and modelled data (spanning the various timeframes) was something that required great time, research, and expertise from our in-house GIS Cartographer, Heiko Lang. Heiko had to combine data sets to bring key learnings to life, but always ensuring scientific accuracy and data integrity was maintained. For example, he used energy usage by country data and overlaid that with population density and nightlights data to show where in each country energy is being used to give a more accurate view of the human ecological footprint.
The completed visitor centre opened in September 2020, and is such a great experience for the senses! The PT2+ is the focal point and the contextual foundation for the visitor experience, which also examines the process and innovations behind wind energy. Other features include an exciting virtual reality experience taking you out to the wind farm, interactive games and video kiosks to allow visitors to explore the development, construction and operation of Rampion, and visitors can also enjoy interactive exhibits showing how energy is made and how wind energy works.
It has been great to hear such positive feedback from visitors and venue staff who were lucky enough to visit the centre through the summer and autumn.
The overall process was one of collaboration, one of great resilience surrounding Covid-19, and one which has resulted in a stand out piece of technology in a stand out location. Brighton beach is iconic for many reasons, but now with the addition of this unique visitor centre, there is yet another reason to visit the beautiful shores of Sussex. We can’t wait to see the doors re-open in May, and hope that you too can go and visit the centre in 2021.
Last but definitely not least, we also want to thank Chris Nutall, Chris Tomlinson and Venue Manager, Katie Scanlan for their ongoing support.