The new gallery’s spaces were created using Pilkington’s Optiwhite® – a low-iron colourless glass – variously treated – transparent, translucent, opaque, printed and lit with coloured light, and arranged to form a dynamic chasm down the length of the exhibition. This introductory walk leads the visitor to the ‘East Room’. This is where the exhibition begins in detail and where the visitor gently moves up to return at mid-point in the chasm on the first bridge before discovering the rest of the exhibition.
Crossing the chasm are four gently cambered bridges, some inclined, some horizontal, seemingly suspended from the fragile glass walls. The bridge surfaces differ – recycled rubber tyres, wood, metal and finally glass – allude to man’s history in processing raw materials. The bridges connect the different themes of the exhibition. The generously curved deck of each bridge provides space to pause and offers a glimpse of man in his surroundings while also allowing orientation and to measure progress through the exhibition.
The glass walls of low-iron glass are the world’s first application of structurally bonded glass in a public building.
The Ecology Exhibition opened in April 1991 and although projected to run ten years, ran unchanged in concept until 2006 when it was reduced to half its size to make way for a shop!