The mission of the Denver Botanic Gardens is to educate, entertain, and enlighten visitors by connecting them with plants, particularly those found in the Rocky Mountain area and comparable regions around the world. In the fall of 2014, the Gardens opened its new Science Pyramid, a place dedicated to highlighting the institution's scientific research and conservation efforts. Second Story created the permanent exhibit "Learning to See" within this space, sharing with visitors stories of plants, ecosystems, and science through digital and physical interactives, large-scale graphics, and a lighting environment that responds to the weather at the Gardens.
The overarching narrative of the exhibit asks visitors to shift their perspective from viewing the natural world as a beautiful backdrop to recognizing their own interconnectedness with the plant life around them. The experience begins with a foundational understanding of the ecosystems of Colorado, then explores stories of the nearby steppe environment and the research being carried out at the Gardens, and culminates with a look at the opportunities that exist for visitors themselves to become involved in conservation through citizen science. All exhibit content is bilingual, presented in English and Spanish.
Conceptually, "Learning to See" finds inspiration in the geography, landscapes, and plants of Colorado. The exhibit is designed to evoke the feeling of an aspen glade, and contrast of scale is used to mimic the state's vast elevation differences. Three interactive tables, boulder-like in form, provide grounding information throughout the visitor's journey and are surrounded by tree-like pylons that each host individual interactive experiences. Activated surfaces throughout the space, as well as the interactive software itself, respond to the temperature and wind speed in the Gardens through color and animation, with technology serving as a bridge between the Pyramid's interior and the natural world just outside.