The Franklin Institute Nicholas and Athena Karabots Pavilion
Founded in 1824 to honor the legacy of Benjamin Franklin, The Franklin Institute is one of the nation’s oldest centers for science education. Today, the world-renowned Institute hosts an array of hands-on, educational exhibitions and programs focusing on science and technology as well as community outreach. Located in Philadelphia’s Parkway Museums District, the Institute recently inaugurated the $ 41 million, 3-story, 53,000-square-foot Nicholas and Athena Karabots Pavilion which houses state-of-the-art education and conference centers; an 8,000-square-foot, rotating exhibition gallery; and a permanent, interactive exhibition on the human brain. The Institute was in need of an unconventional design solution for a donor recognition program honoring over 100 major donors whose generous contributions made the new Pavilion possible.
Focusing the program on a universal scientific concept relevant to the Franklin Institute and the themes of the exhibitions within the new Pavilion, Poulin + Morris developed a program based on the fractal—a natural phenomenon and mathematical set consisting of complex, infinite, patterns exhibiting self-similarity displayed at all scales. Dynamic, large-scale bas-relief sculptural treatments comprised of cast resin, triangular fractals are arranged along two 28-foot-long travertine-clad walls that frame the interior entrance of the new Pavilion. The main focal point of the donor recognition program is a black-and-white photographic portrait of the lead benefactors, Nicholas and Athena Karabots, taken specifically for the donor wall to celebrate the couple. All donor names are silkscreened onto the panels in varying type sizes to distinguish the levels of donors.
While the bas-reliefs recognize the major benefactors of the Pavilion, their kinetic patterns engage visitors and set an exciting tone for the interactive experiences within.