A visualisation centre to understand and change the world

To show what actually cannot be seen, and to make complex information comprehensible by way of images. This is what visualisation is about, and this is the objective of Visualization Center C in Norrköping. The centre conducts world-leading research, and visitors can travel to the furthest reaches of the universe, and into the smallest constituent parts of atoms. But the story of what would become Visualization Center C begins on a train.

Photo credit Anna Nilsen

It’s 1999, and Anders Ynnerman, professor of scientific visualisation at Linköping University, is sitting on a train, on the way home from a meeting. He thinks about an assignment he was given by the university’s vice-chancellor, and taps the following concept into his laptop: a hyper-modern centre for visualisation that merges research, education, artistic creativity and entertainment.

Photo credit THOR BALKHEDVisualisation is a young research field, and LiU is on the ball early – an example of this is the recruitment of Anders Ynnerman as Sweden’s first professor in the field. In the years that follow, visualisation becomes one of the university’s most high-profile areas. Meanwhile, work continues on the creation of a world-leading visualisation centre, in close collaboration with LiU, Norrköping Municipality, the Interactive Institute and Norrköping Science Park.

Photo credit Thor BalkhedThe pace increases, and the deadline is approaching. A lot remains to be completed, including the film for the opening of the centre’s dome theatre. A world-famous guru in the field, Carter Emmart from the Hayden Planetarium, is persuaded to leave New York City for a wintery Norrköping, in order to direct the film Allt vi är (All We Are). What takes a large production team in New York City three years to finish, takes three people in Norrköping three months.

World-class visualisation research

In May of 2010 it’s time: Visualization Center C, in the heart of Norrköping’s revitalised industrial precinct, is officially opened by the Swedish king. It features world-class visualisation research and a hyper-modern dome theatre – where All We Are is shown to much acclaim.

Photo credit David Einar NygrenBut the journey has just begun. A visualisation table is built for the centre, where visitors can investigate the human body’s different layers, in three dimensions. Initially there are no commercial plans for the table, but a YouTube film gets 60,000 hits in one week, and there is a lot of interest in purchasing one. So the visualisation table is developed into a commercial product which is now used worldwide – both in healthcare and at museums and science centres.

In January 2017, Visualization Center C and Linköping University receive a large anniversary donation from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation. The initiative is named Wisdome – and from its base in Norrköping, it will be spread to dome theatres around Sweden, with the aim of sparking young people’s interest in science and technology. Plus, the dome in Norrköping gets an upgrade – at its reopening, it is the most technically advanced in the world.

Anders Ynnerman is passionate about using visualisation to enable young people to discover and understand the world. Now it’s time for the next revolution, and he has coined a new concept: exploranation – a combination of the words exploration and explanation. Thanks to technological advances and growing volumes of open data, the same advanced methods and information that the researchers use can be accessible to the general public, and even to children. The world’s first professor of exploranation, the Oscar-winning filmmaker Ben Shedd, is now on site in Norrköping.

With exploranation, the pioneers of tomorrow have the tools to understand – and create change.


The Wallenberg family and Visualization Center C

Professor Anders Ynnerman in the dome as the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, one of Europe’s largest private research funders, celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2017. Thor Balkhed
Peter Wallenberg Jr playing Mindball at Visualization Center C. “Visualization Center C is a great example of how interest in science can be aroused in children and young people.” Thor Balkhed
Ben Shedd
Ben Shedd, creator of many prize-winning films, is the first Peter Wallenberg guest professor in visual science communication. THOR BALKHED

More about Visualization Center CShow/Hide content

More about visualisation research at LiUShow/Hide content

Always an innovatorShow/Hide content