experimenta Science Center

Spatial Concept Ecsite Conference

Festival Atmosphere on the Theresienwiese

In early summer 2022, the experimenta Science Center welcomed the approximately 350 member institutions of the European network Ecsite to Heilbronn - at a very special location: a tent city erected especially for the annual meeting, an open camp for encounters and personal exchange.

Light, lively, outdoors; a place for the international and local audience, with a unique spirit in the midst of the city. With this extraordinary event concept, experimenta - Germany's largest science center - was able to win over the representatives of the international Ecsite association. Feasibility study and basic concept were developed in close cooperation with Milla & Partner.

„We are proud to have convinced the jury of experimenta as this year´s Ecsite host. We see this as a recognition of our exhibition work so far.”

Dr. Wolfgang Hansch, CEO experimenta

For more than 30 years, a steadily growing number of experts and practicians from the field of professional science communication have been meeting at the Ecsite Conference. Together, they develop ideas to generate even more enthusiasm for science and to strengthen the credibility and relevance of research.

A tent city was created on the 30,000-square-meter Theresienwiese fairground. Its spaces - unusual for a congress - not only served as places for listening and participation, allowing for exchange and diverse encounters. Rather, they offered places to pause and reflect, and change perspectives from time to time. The idea of the "Ecsite Camp" was developed with the aim of breaking new ground, rethinking the prestigious conference itself, actively carrying it into the future and involving the public in the discussions. The focus of the event concept was clearly on the "we": encounter, dialog and interaction were to be promoted - both in direct interaction and as a community of around 1,100 participants. Topics and ideas that shaped the conference were made visible and tangible and invited further reflection and action.

One Camp – many formats

Upon arrival at the camp, visitors could first linger and take a breather. After registering, they immersed themselves in the camp atmosphere via the marketplace and strolled along the Path of Recreation. The Auditorium brought all participants together, created the framework for the conference and inspired with gripping keynotes. On the Boulevard of New Knowledge, the spaces for sessions and labs were lined up in a storefront manner. They invited visitors to attend lectures, workshops and try things out, and actively engage with the conference topics as participants and contributors. The compact spatial format allowed for a leisurely stroll and inspiration, whilst enabling a quick switch between spaces and so making optimal use of the conference time.

Flanking the Boulevard of New Knowledge was the Community Hub - it formed the central conference space. The Business Bistro, an exhibition area for the partners, showed current products and work and was a hotspot for networking. Coffee spots and lounges invited attendees to relax and linger indoors and out. The Hive of Ideas captured new thoughts, ideas and approaches from the keynotes, sessions and conversations. Here, using graphic recording, the streams of thoughts and collective links were captured, processed and shared with everyone in an ever-changing image.

Ultimately, the Boulevard of New Knowledge culminated in the Lunch Area, serving as a place of regeneration and networking for all conference participants. Strolling back along the Boulevard, past the session tents and the Community Hub, delegates reached the adjacent "Wild Spaces". Here, the public was called upon: small and large dialogue spaces enabled interaction between the conference audience and the general public: they were likewise designed to generate new perspectives. The tent city was extended by the 105-meter-long ship MS experimenta, which created a floating platform directly on the banks of the Neckar.

„In the conceptual design, the encounter of the Ecsite participants in personal exchange and their interaction with the regional public was very important to us: In a kind of science festival, the most diverse groups - from school classes to institutions - should become active in the 'Wild Spaces'. Experts and laypersons, regional and international, succeeded in an exchange that carried the ideas of the conference far beyond the conference period.”

Petra Rieger, Creative Direction at Milla & Partner

The power of community: the tangible “we”

The event area was not only used for the three-day congress, but also for the evening social program with gala dinner: For the banquet, the lunch tents were restaged and the entire area ceremoniously illuminated - creating an engaging festival atmosphere and once again strengthening the sense of unity of both the community and the experimenta team as hosts and partners. Places of inspiration, communication and networking were not only found in new creative formats, but also defined the entire conference: shared moments become lasting memories and loose impulses active courses of action.

Science Festival with unique atmosphere

All attendees - whether from the professional world or the general public - became active participants and the Theresienwiese a lively place creating enthusiasm and motivation, generating attention and appreciation for science, and establishing identity - a place that, thanks to its specially created structure, was explicitly oriented to the needs of visitors and offered a new platform for jointly shaping the future. With the "Ecsite Camp" concept created together with Milla & Partner, experimenta succeeded in both creating a special atmosphere and establishing a new form of conference: an urban base camp that combined the advantages of a city with plazas, boulevards, and recreational places at the water, and at the same time symbolizing the excitement that prevails at the beginning of a research expedition - all in all, an ideal setting for intensive exchange on questions of modern science communication ...

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