WOW! In This Museum, Nothing is as It Seems

WOW Museum - Room for Illusions in Zurich, Switzerland

We recently travelled to Zürich to visit the WOW Museum, a centre focused on the fascinating world of optical illusions. Dive into the wow experience by reading about unorthodox and rather ingenious take on mirages.

llusions have been an essential part of human culture and history for millennia, the profession of conjuring them is possibly one of the oldest in the world. This occupation lead to the modern mythology surrounding druids, “court wizards” and jesters.

One of the world’s oldest illusions at the Airavatesvara Temple, India
One of the world’s oldest illusions at the Airavatesvara Temple, India

One of the world’s oldest illusions dates back 850 years, and can be found at the Airavatesvara Temple in India; it’s intricate bas-relief shows a bull and an elephant sharing the same head, depending on the angle of observation you see either the elephant or the bull.

Illusions in Architecture

The Italian church of Saint Satyrus contains a fresco that warps the construction, making the church appear much larger and in size. In short, the enjoyment we find in being tricked or mesmerised is pervasive and has preserved itself throughout the ages. 

The Italian church of Saint Satyrus (left) and Borromini's forced perspective gallery (right)
The Italian church of Saint Satyrus (left) and Borromini's forced perspective gallery (right)

Illusions at Every Turn

While WOW may be a museum in the traditional sense of the word, their approach to educating people about the necessity of optical ‘tricks’ is anything but traditional. Vanessa Kammerman, the founder explains that these illusions can be used to point out differences in perspective and form a common understanding between office teams.

WOW Museum of Illusions, Zurich
Upside Down Worlds - WOW Museum

While some ideas might seem simple like “there are always two sides to a story” seeing a physical optical effect that changes depending on the position you stand in can be a physical way to easily understand very abstract concepts, ultimately helping people better understand each other. One room had a slanted walkway allowing the participant standing at the top to look much larger in a photograph and the one at the bottom far smaller, in the photo this slant presents as the subjects looking like a giant or a dwarf; however, when you look at the actual process of how the illusion develops you understand its complication.

The Morphing of Colours - WOW Museum

Square Wave doesn’t fall far from the same tree, while it doesn’t trick us, it reminds us to reflect and take a moment to consider where we are and what we are doing. Much like observing nature, observing Square Wave can be food for deeper thought, a time to process and develop our considerations and beliefs… opening us up to new perspectives. 

The Sapphire Square Wave kinetic spinner
The Sapphire Square Wave kinetic spinner

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