There was a mummy and a bicycle, a cougar and a beaver, as well as an (abridged) time-line of the history of Vancouver and the world. The floor was concrete so the acoustics were awful. The space was cluttered, confusing pathing and overwhelming the room – were the exhibits to the left or right? The Orientation Gallery at the Vancouver Museum needed a redesign; the Vancouver Museum was becoming the Museum of Vancouver. The brand was new and ready to be launched, the museum’s direction had been redefined and great new exhibitions were planned for the future (Velo-City was opening soon). The Orientation Gallery was soon to undergo a change of name and floor covering.
Darren Carcary (Resolve Design) and I came on board to realise a new direction for an outdated space. In keeping with the brand (and keeping with the budget) we went simple but bold. By painting the space white to cover up mismatched walls and pillars of different colours, and using a couple of bright hues gleaned from the new brand, we carved out a room within a room and established clear pathing. Banners and corresponding doorway colours now guide museum visitors toward either the permanent or special exhibitions.
We imagined a space flexible enough to serve as an orientation area for students, an event space for gallery openings and special events, or a resting spot for visitors to converse, read or just sit back and enjoy the room’s best feature: a huge view of the city across False Creek.
Where the Vancouver time-line had been, we designed instead a gallery space, offering a changing exhibition of artwork pertaining to Vancouver.
A large chalkboard on the entrance wall offers museum visitors the opportunity to express themselves and make their mark on the space. In an otherwise structured and linear room, it’s an area of creativity and chaos. On my last visit every square inch was covered in layers of writing and drawings – and to think we’d been worried it would remain an empty, intimidating black rectangle!
What we struggled with most was trying to make the most sustainable choices for the aspects of the design we had control over. There was no fabrication and we re-purposed the furniture, something very much encouraged by the museum and inline with our approach and philosophy. While there was little printing involved, that’s where the biggest challenge lay – I haven’t found an elegant alternative to applied vinyl lettering. Fortunately, most of it will remain intact until the room is redesigned or the museum’s message changes, but the artist bio on the gallery wall is something that may change with some frequency as exhibitions change.
Avoiding vinyl and aggressive solvent inks for the banners, we opted instead for primed canvas printed with Mutoh eco-solvent inks. The banners were also left unvarnished. While sourcing the banner material, I found I was unhappy with many of the so-called ‘eco’ substrate options. When I researched them, many touted as ‘eco’ turned out to be recycled vinyl, or contained a certain amount of vinyl mixed with other materials.
Experiential design offers a fairly different set of challenges to what I’ve been working on recently. But the same rules apply to a room as they do any other design problem; a room’s just a larger design assignment. There’s a certain amount of wait and see, regardless of how thoroughly the design has been mocked up in 3D. Things that work at 12-inches don’t always hold up when they’re enlarged to 12-feet. And while we had no qualms or worries about painting a huge section of ceiling and wall bright magenta, we have to admit to sweating a bit over the carpet choice. A 6-inch sample is always going to look entirely different from 2000-square feet of installed carpet. We spent an inordinate amount of time pushing a tiny carpet swatch around the gallery floor – testing it in and out of shadows, under the lights, against the wall…
There were things that didn’t go as planned – a doorway we’d hope could be walled up turned out to be a fire door. Old text applied to the concrete floor years ago remains in place, peeking out from under the edge of the carpet, too tenacious to be successfully removed. But overall, things look exactly as we expected them to, and very much like they did when the walls were 12-inches long in our 3D model.
The Velo-City exhibit opened in June and the museum hosted the first opening night in the brand new MOV Studio. The carpet looked great, improving the acoustics immensely, and the chalkboard was thoroughly broken in that night – filling up with drawings of bicycles and odes to Vancouver and cycling.
We are excited to be working on another project with the Museum of Vancouver and hope to be revealing some of that process on both this blog and the Resolve Design blog in the coming months.
2 thoughts on “New work – MOV Studio Design”
WOW, Kirsti — incredible!
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