Evolution of museum architecture after the pandemic
As museums have been forced to close and implement new security measures during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is no exaggeration to predict that future museum architecture could take advantage of this to evolve. Given the negative effects a pandemic can have on the art industry, it is likely that many architects and artists will proactively devise preventative solutions to ensure the continued enjoyment of in-person art exhibitions.
Although most museums offer the option of purchasing tickets online or through a kiosk, this does not eliminate the need for lobby spaces and ticket check lines. According to a Smithsonian Magazine interview with Bea Spolidoro, a WELL-certified architect and director at FisherARCHitecture in Pittsburgh, architects are likely to begin to move towards incorporating outdoor spaces into lobbies, “Being outdoors is always better than being indoors in terms of the particles that spread around… But at the same time, in windy conditions particles can spread, so museums with courtyards could be another design solution that can keep people outside with less wind for spread germs.
Additionally, as AR technology continues to advance, museum architecture is likely to evolve toward spacious exterior designs. In 2021, the National Gallery in London created an outdoor installation in central London that allowed people to activate artwork on their phone using a QR code. At Immersive Van Gogh Experience in Pittsburgh, the entrance lines were structured to be outdoors and the indoor exhibition hall was spaced out on the floors using benches and circle projections on the floor. It is possible that future museums will incorporate specific architectural elements such as tile patterns or carpet squares designed to indicate the six-foot marker.
“Super sad vinyl sheets…or painter’s tape on the floor, that’s a wartime fix for when you really have to,” Spolidoro says. “But when you think about design, it would be a different approach, more thoughtful about the patterns and the volumes of the architecture. Museums could be designed as a more experiential environment.
The gift shop is a problematic source for spreading germs as it is common for visitors to pick up items and put them back on the shelf. One suggestion from Spolidoro is to design the gift shop as a museum itself, not allowing items to be handled by customers, and to build a pick-up window at the end where people can order items. Additionally, items from the gift shop could be displayed in the rest of the museum with exhibits, customers can place orders for the items by scanning a QR code with their phone, and then they can collect their items upon exiting the museum.
Museum architecture typically contains large, open rooms with artwork lining most of the surrounding walls. On crowded museum days, the lack of adequate space between artworks is not very conducive to social distancing. Not only will future museums likely be designed to keep artworks further apart, but they could also favor more traffic control measures in their design to eliminate overcrowding.
One of the biggest challenges in exhibit design is displaying text on the walls, which can be a nuisance when it comes to social distancing. According to Michael Govan, director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and a leader in exploring how the public interacts with art, one possible solution could be mobile and digital displays like videos or brochures that you can experience before or during exhibitions that provide the necessary information on the different parts.
As art continues to become more accessible through virtual museum experiences, museum architects must evolve and design spaces where patrons can feel comfortable experiencing and enjoying art in person.
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