Arguably, the greatest building in the world is a museum. Why? Because buildings are like a life stage. They host our memories, they teach us new things with interactive exhibits, and they exhibit artwork that we will never forget.
Museums are important educational institutions, not just because they provide the public with fascinating insights into their locality’s history and culture; but also because they make for first-class places to spend a relaxing afternoon with friends and family.
Modern museums are very important to our society, they act as a social order. Museums that offer exhibitions on various subjects can change opinions and create interest and curiosity in their visitors.
However, some people believe that museums are a waste of space due to the rising costs across all industries and are being replaced by technology such as computers, tablets, etc…
The museum architecture community has been accused of having tunnel vision in their approach to research, and not taking into account the many uses and meanings of museums.
This is a criticism of museum architecture that needs to be addressed. An important starting point is to reflect on why people interact with museum space in different ways. Museums are social spaces used by lots of different people in lots of different ways. They are not just spaces for cultural consumption but can be multi-functional spaces for recreation, education, and politics. With this in mind, can there be a ‘best practice’? Can we measure what is good or bad about museum space?
What does good museum architecture look like?
What should you be looking for if you have to consider the architecture of a museum project?
When thinking about good architecture, think of it not in the same way as any other building. The reason being is that museums are different from other buildings because they hold objects of interest and value that can’t always be taken away when funding isn’t available for upkeep. The problem is further complicated by the fact that there are a lot of different museums – galleries, art galleries, science museums, technology museums, and natural history museums – and each museum has different requirements for its space. As a result, you cannot take one solution from one museum and apply it to another museum (unless of course, it is also an art gallery).
Great museum architecture for me
- Great museum architecture transmits emotion and evokes curiosity
Good museum architecture allows for many different ways of being used, it is not just a place where you go into with specific expectations. A good museum appears accessible but is not necessarily ‘open’ – it draws in visitors with its atmosphere; it radiates excitement before they get there.
2. It tells and explains the story of history while also engaging visitors with an inspiring experience that encourages them to return again and again.
The best museums are those that are built around a central idea (like the British Museum with its Egyptian collection) but can also be adapted to other themes through their layout or use of space.
3. It is important not to simply follow trends in museum architecture.
Some architects are following a trend in museum architecture that just isn’t suited to the collections they are trying to display. For example, the proposed new building for the Museum of Liverpool Football Club is an uber modern design with a huge glass facade – which means it will look great at night but terrible from the outside when the museum is closed.
An architect should totally focus on what works for that particular set of collections and not simply follow trends that make them feel good about themselves as artists, irrespective of whether it makes any sense in terms of display space or anything else.
4. A good museum should teleport you into another world, bringing to life the art on display and taking your imagination on an unforgettable journey.
At the end of the day, what we want is to be transported. We want our minds to be blown. We want to experience something unique and unfamiliar. We want to stop thinking about all the crap going on in our lives and escape into another world.
5. A good museum makes great architecture but even the best architecture will not help if people have trouble entering or moving around inside its walls.
A good museum needs good museum architecture for people in wheelchairs, those with visual impairments as well as larger groups of people who simply want to spend more time enjoying the collection without getting too hot or too cold inside the building itself.
While the list can go on, there is a great deal of discussion about good museum architecture going on around the world at the moment, but what do we know about the future? I think we are in a position to make some educated guesses about where we might go if we want to make our museums more relevant and engaging for audiences.
Museums are already in the midst of a tech revolution, so it seems natural that exhibits will continue to be increasingly augmented by digital content. Let me know what you think!