Dark Sky Project

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  • 2020

  • Digital
    Game Design and Animation

Designed By:

  • ThoughtFull
  • Geoff Suvalko
  • Aaron Richardson
  • Andrea Fouhey
  • Dark Room, Human Dynamo

Commissioned By:

Ngai Tahu Tourism

Designed In:

New Zealand

The Dark Sky Experience is a new tourism attraction based in Tekapo, South Island, New Zealand. A 360 degree designed experience. From strategy, product, brand development, restaurant design, digital installation, audio visual, signage to merchandising that expresses a narrative that combines Science with Maori culture.


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Image: Planetary objects that illuminate and vibrate to express the stellar pulsations they emit
Image: Fusion between floor projections with human guides and storytellers
Image: Experience Zone Floor Plan
Image: Zone - 2 - Stellar Pulsations - planetary objects that radiate the sound of the stars
Image: Zone 1 - Wall projection and animation concept design
Image: Zone 3 - Floor projection and animation concept design
Image: Zone 3 - Floor projection and animation
Image: Zone 1- Projection and animation
  • CHALLENGE
  • SOLUTION
  • IMPACT
  • MORE
  • In 2012, the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve was declared, with light pollution strictly controlled in the area. The only one of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. This formed an opportunity to create a new ground-up tourism attraction that showcased the wonder of the night sky through both daytime and evening to broaden the market and make the night sky accessible to more customers. To create a narrative that struck a balance between the role of the University of Canterbury Astrophysics department and the significance the night sky to local Maori people. To fuse science with culture.

  • Indigenous cultures and science have generally sat at opposite ends of the spectrum for generations. The night sky is perfect example of where this happens. We aligned all groups around a common purpose. “To empower people to protect the night sky’, and named it ‘The Dark Sky Project’. We then created a hands-on guided digital walking tour of four spaces that tell a different aspect of the dark Sky story. Through the choreography of a human host telling a story with immersive technologies, space and physical objects we created an illusion that the host making things magically happen.

  • Launched in 2019, The Dark Sky Project showcases the unique cohesion of expertise towards a common cause, to empower people to protect the night sky. “A wonderful insight into the history, chemistry, astronomy and Maori mythology surrounding the night sky. The Dark Sky Experience is a multimedia, all-weather daytime dip in to the Southern Hemisphere. The tour takes about 40 minutes and visits four different rooms each with an individual flavor and story. Allow plenty of time to visit the amazing restaurant and best souvenir shop in town, along with some spectacular views across Lake Tekapo. A must visit.” Customer

  • Zone 1 - The Night Sky Visitors face a curved 12 metre wall. The host narrates a story that is synced to projected animated audio/video content. The story talks to the creation of the solar system. The host can pause the audio/visual to expand on a specific constellation featured using a handheld device and pointer. Zone 2 - Sounds of the Stars Four large glowing orbs at its centre, each orb represents a dominant star. The host invites the guests to stand by an orb and narrates a story of that specific star and the stellar pulsations it makes. The host then invites guests to touch the star and as they do they feel the pulsations within the orb along with a directed soundscape of the actual sound that pulsation makes. Zone 3 - Pool of Reflection A tranquil space with a circular pool rippling at its centre. The pool reflects Lake Tekapo. The sound of wind blowing ripples across the pool. The host narrates a story that is synced to the pool. Through the sound and animation of wind blowing across the surface of the pool the host transitions between cultural stories using animated story sequences.