Making a crowded museum more explorable by evidence-based design.

Study project, London 2013

UCL, The Bartlett, Space Syntax Laboratory

Together with Athina Vlachou, Ioanna Kolovou, Jinyao Yan and Congting Yang

The Natural History Museum is part of the cultural centre of South Kensington comprising of some of the most visited museums in London and other institutions. The museum operates on the limits of its capacity. In the project, field observations and spatial analysis were carried out both in the museum and in its surroundings. This evidence formed the basis of design guidelines to enhance the performance the museum both internally and as part of the cultural centre.

The analysis highlights the significant potential of the eastern part museum grounds as a public space that can address the whole cultural complex of south Kensington. Based on this evidence, the study proposes the opening of the east ground and creating a public plaza that serves the area. New wider pedestrian crossings were proposed at the important approaches to the leading to the museum.

Inside of the museum, the analysis pointed out how the queue to the popular dinosaur blocks the central hall and increases congestion. The study recommended moving the dinosaur exhibition to the upper floors where it remains visible in central hall, because the potential of the upper floors is underutilized. Most importantly, the study proposed the re-opening and extension of a back corridor of the museum. Evidence of the spatial analysis demostrated that the new corridor could enhance greatly the performance of the museum, integrating the isolated back parts, solving congestion spots and improving the navigation in the museum by replacing dead-ends with looped paths. This would give the visitors more liberty to explore the museum.

Finally, it was proposed that the suggested new back corridor would extend out of the museum. The corridor would be extended to the west grounds, which would be developed as an integral open air exhibition room. Eastwards, the corridor would be extended towards the courtyard of Victoria & Albert Museum, projecting through the new entrance of the V&A museum on Exhibition Road. This would create an urban loop through the museums, streets and parks and the South Kensington underground station. This new route could invigorate the commercial development of the area, fragment the mega-blocks of the cultural complex. It could connect the area better towards the neighbouring local centres, such as Sloane Square and Victoria.