Visitors centre “The sands of Đurđevac” thematizes the natural phenomenon of the unique desert habitat near the town of Đurđevac in Croatia, which is sometimes referenced as the Croatian Sahara. The formation of sands is the result of natural processes in the geological history of the Earth, which are presented in the Visitor center through architectural and scenographic discourse through the synergy of natural sciences, technology, design, illustration, scenography and architecture. Theoretical framework has been established at the level of a program, spatial scenario and at the level of architectural interior design. Content from the field of science and history had to be interpreted in a popular-scientific way with the ambition of achieving a high technical and artistic level. Diverse disciplines and the spatial logic of visitor movement are articulated at the level of the dramaturgical film tool: through the stage narrative and film plans. The overlapping density of Terry Gilliam's dystopian films and the minimalism of Kubrick's Odyssey creates an ambience that aims to inspire a wide range of visitors - from children to the scientific community. Gradual chronological progress through thematic spatial units from timelessness of space through the tectonics of the Earth's crust and the Pannonian Basin to the origin and life of sand and man's role in it, is told in the language of architecture and design. The visitor is introduced to a chronological sequence of units in which humanistic scenarios overlap, such as small performance theater under a LED-starred sky or Paleolithic cave drawings as well as natural history scenarios made possible through multimedia interactions with prehistoric era through virtual reality, holograms and digital projections. The visual identity of Đurđevac Sands and the graphic design of the exhibition are inspired by the micro forms of sand particles and illustratively reveal structures that are not visible to the naked eye. The main form is the form of the initial letter "Đ" which is very specific and characteristic of the Croatian language. A flexible modular visual system has been designed in such a way that particles from the letter "Đ" can be transformed into any shape for use in spatial graphics. Subtle illustrations by Patricio Agüero have also been designed so that they follow the physical space of the interior, the digital space of the screen and the hybrid space of augmented reality, in the symbiosis with the narrative technique of ethnographic storytelling. The relationship between the natural and the artificial in the interior is a constant motive for the design of the exhibition. It has been embodied from the imaginary position of a benevolent observer who, from the distant future or indefinite timelessness, forms a kind of "cabinet of miracles" with artifacts that narrate the Earth's evolution and the richness of life. The role of this imaginary subject contains a component of subversion in the form of subliminal communication of the fragility and value of natural heritage and the need for its protection, both globally and locally, in one and only Croatian desert landscape. The dialogue between what nature has created and what our technological civilization has produced is shown in a variety of digital-analog installations. For example, in the thematic unit "The formation of sands" gypsum board stalactites hover over VR stations. In this "holodeck" the visitor feels the effects of paleoclimate through heaters and air currents while witnessing the ice age through VR lenses. The room "Life of the Sands" contains a robotic garden, whose central location evokes the hearth and the source of life. The garden is shaped like a metal glazed monolith of a preserved and controlled desert fragment whose living plant habitat is guarded by a processor unit that controls living conditions - ultraviolet light and humidity levels - with plant stems intertwined with rubber hoses in the coexistence of nature and technology. Design effects lend themselves to focus the visitors’ interest to the fact that human nature is inextricably connected to the planet Earth, and even more broadly: to the universe. Dramaturgical narrative from total to detail is achieved in the final realization that "local" is "cosmic" – in the final scene of cathartic virtual contact of man and butterfly. The exhibition is ultimately a story about ourselves, the heirs of this planet, told by an imaginary cosmic storyteller.
Hrvoje Končar and Robert Bodiš are architects based in Zagreb, Croatia with experience in various fields of architectural practice.