I have been thinking a lot about museum design these days. Museums have the regrettable reputation as cold, almost sinister, places where you will certainly get yelled at by a mean guard if you get too close to anything. This is not entirely unwarranted, (my parents and I had a bad time with an overzealous guard at the Getty Villa a few years ago), but when done well museum design can make the interaction between visitors and exhibits almost magical.
The Victoria & Albert museum in London can skew heavily to the austere, it is a huge, old, ornate building with serious, important artwork. However, the powers that be at the V&A are invested in making their space more accessible and interesting. Last fall, during the London design festival, the Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec installed this soft, inviting platform in a gallery at the V&A.
They toured the museum before deciding what kind of project they would undertake, and were drawn to the Raphael Gallery. The cartoons are huge, and patrons have a hard time really seeing them. This is the kind of gallery that breeds museum fatigue.
The addition “Textile Field” provided a comfortable place to rest and contemplate the art on display. From the brothers’ website:
“Our intention is to propose a different, casual approach to freely experience what can be a quite intimidating environment, such as a museum.”
It looks amazing, I am disappointed that it was not a permanent addition to the gallery. From the looks of the photos patrons certainly enjoyed it.
Anytime a museum gets a little bit more playful and a little less uptight, we all win.