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Zaha Hadid’s design for the Science Museum’s new maths hall is certainly something

For a while, the Science Museum has been forming groups and making noises and tickling rich people with the aim of working out how they’re going to update their rather neglected maths hall. Yesterday they made an unexpectedly positive announcement: they’ve been given £5 million by rich people David and Claudia Harding, and Dame Zaha Hadid has drawn up a swooshy new design.


In this illustration by Zaha Hadid Architects, a distressing future is imagined where the only source of entertainment is transparent boxes.

The centrepiece of the hall is a prop plane from the 1920s, surrounded by a minimal surface representing the flow of air around it – the boundary of the surface is formed from isoclines in the fluid. Minimal surfaces are sort of Zaha Hadid’s thing.

This “design animation” released by the Science Museum explains a bit of the thinking behind the design and how it relates to maths:

So they’ve got a load of money and they know how they’re going to refurbish the space. Now I really want to know what they’re going to fill it with! Your suggestions of “mathematical shapes that would amuse a wandering museum patron” in the comments, please.

The David and Claudia Harding Foundation has previously given £20 million to the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge University, and the associated Winton Charitable Foundation endows David Spiegelhalter’s professorship of the public understanding of risk, as well as sponsoring events at several science festivals.

More information

Bringing maths to life at the Science Museum in the Inside the Science Museum blog

Unprecedented £5 million donation and world-renowned architect combine to bring mathematics to life at the Science Museum – press release

Interview with Science Museum director Ian Blatchford on YouTube

New mathematics gallery at the Science Museum – in pictures by Alex Bellos in The Guardian

Things tagged as “mathematical” in the Zaha Hadid archive – the site’s search facility is rubbish, but Zaha Hadid uses a lot of maths in her work, and not in the usual half-understood way.

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