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Subtropolis: Breaking New Ground in Immersion and the Power of Theme Open Access

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Subtropolis is a proposed exhibition for the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center that explores the idea of what life could be like underground. Aimed at children, ages 6-14 who live in city environments, the exhibit will be a new take on incorporating immersive environments and technological interactives to create a strong sense of theme that engages on every level. The development of the exhibition is discussed, considering the various challenges posed and the solutions that led to the ultimate design and narrative choices. Precedents examined include Coney Island’s Luna Park and the use of elemental spectacle to convert fear into awe. There is also an in depth analysis regarding the human psyche and where the fear of the underground originates from, and how those factors contributed to the overall feel and message of the exhibit. Guided by the narrative and a sense of discovery, visitors will learn about living underground in the natural world, both animals and ancient civilizations, how underground life is imagined in the media, and lastly what a realistic underground city might look like and how it could operate. Subtropolis will serve as a possible model for conveying ideas that have not yet happened into a physical form designed to keep people interested, entertained, and aware in order for them to leave feeling open to new possibilities, namely, that one day and entire city could exist under our feet.

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