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The Gerald O. Young Helicopter Operations Facility

Highlights: Visualizing the initial creative physical and digital experience design for the whole facility, persuading stakeholders, creative direction on specialty projects, and managing the budgets for all features essential to the vision.

 

My client was the 1st Helicopter squadron, which included flight and technical support team members. This squadron's mission is to airlift high-ranking Executive Branch, dignitaries, military leaders, and other VIPs. This two-floor museum is open to the VIPs mentioned above and staff.

 

My role as a museum liaison was to visualize telling the squadron's story in an inspiring, dramatic way to match their mission as heroes, pilots, and technicians. I created mood boards and depicted various physical and interactive creative concepts, plus a contract for these services. I won the entire two-floor project (total budget of $859,000.00).​ My perception of what level of design was needed in the facility was directly responsible for the bidding price.

In addition to my duties as the museum liaison, I managed and collaborated with the creative design and fabrication team once the project was won, guiding the development of all the features through the phases of design, fabrication, and installation. I also creatively directed and project-managed specific outstanding artistic components of the production, namely the hanging helicopter sculpture (seen below) and the auditorium's sculptural sound walls. Photos are minimal due to security.

 

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Creative Strategy 

To enhance the dramatic storytelling of heroic missions with unique creative features while adding ways for the staff and VIPs to gather, share, learn, and be inspired.  


To captivate the imaginations of staff and visitors in the main hall, I directed the creation of an abstract helicopter sculpture to thematically unify all the facility exhibits and serve as the museum icon of technology and flight. The pre-existing wrap-around staircase would allow the viewer to approach it from many angles and peer into it as they climbed to the second floor. I also directed the creation of a sculptural acoustic wall for the auditorium. We applied the client's photography to custom dimensional shapes hung to buffer the room's sound while enlivening the space as artwork.

Another exciting part of the project was suggesting a way to showcase loads of historic scrapbook memorabilia collected by the squadron. I imagined a way to allow folks to gather, see photos and share stories as a group in the same way as a physical touch experience where images are passed around. For this effect, I sold a 65" touch table which would create community during a physical touch experience of digitized photos that could be "passed around" and resized on a table-like screen. This same piece of equipment was also practical for the display of schedules, concierge information for the facility, and introductory videos and safety information for visitors. 

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Results

Our work was recommended to Air Force One

  • Complements by the Wing Commander, note the hanging helicopter

  • A dedication zone with wall timeline, encased artifacts, LED lighting and life like mannequin of hero, Gerald O. Young

  • An original, iconic 17 foot custom sculpted helicopter hanging in the atrium

  • Murals on the main floor

  • An auditorium exhibit with photo acoustic panels and video timeline wall

  • Installation of a heritage lounge and kitchen with memorabilia evoking the golden age of flight,
    custom wood work, copper tiles and fireplace

  • An honor wall of inscribed brass plaques 

  •  5 exhibit panels in staff briefing rooms

  • A65 inch touch-table with custom programming

  • Artifacts, labels and mannequins in custom cases.

  • Custom monitors walls in the atrium

  • Custom award exhibits with LED lighting effects 

  • Chain of command leadership displays with a changeable slat system

  • Lettering on the exterior brick building

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