A 20-week, four person project to construct an exhibit experience that celebrates the cultural importance of an artifact from the Icelandic tale of Egil's Saga.
Skallagrim's Forge is a two quarter interdisciplinary design project from a course I took in winter and spring of 2016. The project aimed to preserve the history represented by a Viking-age stone artifact on our client's land in Borgarnes, Iceland. This stone is believed to have been used as an anvil by the famous blacksmith Skallagrim in Egil's Saga, and to this day attracts visitors interested in its cultural importance.
Exhibit design components:
- Iron forging demonstration equipment using techniques of Settlement Age blacksmiths
- A reconstruction of the Skallagrim's 10th century smithy workshop
- Information on the smelting process and the importance of Iron in the Settlement Age
- Waysides and wayfinding signs around the site
MY ROLE: Research on period materials and technology, design specifications for the structure and replica equipment, surveying the site and similar local exhibitions in Iceland
INTERPRETING THE HISTORY
We familiarized ourselves with the story behind the anvil stone and with the tools used to forge iron in the 10th century through historical documents and reading a translation of Egil's Saga.
I researched the science of smelting and forging iron, and then communicated these ideas either through informational displays or physical replicas.
Building the forging table prototype allowed us to test the functionality of our demonstration equipment and how engaging a demonstration and exhibit walk through would be for visitors at Skallagrim's Forge.
We ran four test demonstrations to see what first impressions or a tourist group might have.
ICELAND TRIP + LOCAL RESEARCH
To get a better sense of local geographical and cultural context for our exhibit , my teammate Angela and I took a five day trip to Reyjkavik and Borgarnes, Iceland in May 2016 courtesy of the Don Norman Design Fund of the Segal Design Institute.
Our work in Iceland included:
- Surveying our client's land to confirm the exhibit site and get a better sense of size and topography
- Visiting local museums to see how Saga history and Viking culture is presented
- Meeting with a local blacksmith skilled in Viking forging demonstrations to coordinate future work at Skallagrim's Forge
- Speaking with local museum curators and the mayor of Borgarnes, and finding resources to help our client, Francois, start up his exhibition in a permitted and feasible fashion
FINAL DESIGN + IMPLEMENTATION PLAN
In addition to providing build specifications for the exhibit components, we devised a three phase implementation plan in order to manage our client's limited time, design for flexibility, and prioritize adding value to the current visitor experience.
See the full design proposal here.
We transformed an exhibit concept into a defined set of design components and a manageable implementation plan for our client. The unique problem space challenged me to be more creative and flexible throughout the process than in traditional engineering problems. I especially appreciated the geographical and cultural context of this project, as understanding both of these aspects were crucial in creating an effective overall experience.
After full installation, Skallagrim's Forge will preserve the story of the anvil stone and provide a memorable experience for visitors.