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Variações Naturais is a permanent exhibition at the National Museum of Natural History and Science in Lisbon. To celebrate Lisbon as the European Green Capital in 2020, a consortium of researchers and national authorities* challenged us to design an immersive exhibition about the landscapes of Portuguese protected areas.

*National Museum of Natural History and Science, Institute for Nature Conservation and Forests, Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon, and Lisbon City Hall.

From the granitic mountains of northern and central Portugal to the caves of the calcareous mountains, we stroll along the banks of a river that guides us to its estuary. We roam the sand of a dune, discover the animals that inhabit a cliff, and take a dive into the sea!

This exhibition promotes an impossible expedition through 47 Portuguese protected areas where visitors can feel the climate, colors, and altitude variations to discover the ecosystem's diversity.

There are 9 ecosystems represented in this immersive exhibition whose main objective is to reinforce our connection to nature, showing the beauty and the diversity of our country.

For this project, we count on more than 50 specialists from different areas of science. We gathered biologists, zoologists, geologists, botanists, and many others in co-creation sessions, where they helped us illustrate 9 ecosystems. More than collecting information about the protected areas and their biodiversity, we asked them to tell us about their adventures in the field—sensations, emotions, and stories of days spent in the wild.

This exhibition narrative is defined by watercourse and altitude variation, which organizes the exhibition's scientific content: from the river's source at the top of a mountain to the sea. Still, it does not constrain the visitor to a continuous and sequential exploration. On the contrary, our goal is to make the visitor free to explore the exhibition more naturally: following a sound or a visual track. This way, we highlight the exploration of nature guided by the senses.

Research and analysis
Workshops and co-creation sessions with specialists and partners
Exhibition concept and narrative
Ideation and design of experiences and scenography
Brand and graphic design
Supplier and partner management
Production and construction monitoring
Assessment of the exhibition with the public

Photo copyright: Guillaume Vieira
Photos shared by Câmara Municipal de Lisboa

The interaction between Art and Science is a key factor in this exhibition. This interaction is reflected in the scenography, texts, illustrations, graphics, and branding—basically, in the way all scientific content is presented.

This means "Variações Naturais" transports us to the universe of Art (variations of a musical theme or different ways of representing the same element in painting) and the universe of Science (bio and geodiversity, climatic variability, evolution, and adaptation).

We designed an exhibition and a learning ground for schools and universities.  It's a space where we can learn math watching the birds fly, physics hearing the whales sing, ecology exploring our relationship with endangered species. It's a space that can be explored in multiple visits, which never runs out of possibilities!

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