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Open To Interpretation

Open to interpretation



The art of library design to combine library and museum spaces

The trend for combining library and local history or museum spaces under one roof makes sense, economically and artistically but, the practicalities of designing to accommodate both needs careful thought and planning at the early design stages.

Interpretive designers are likely to be commissioned to lead on design to help visitors make sense of a Museum and its collection. Working on public library projects means that as well as working alongside library teams and Architects we are now working closely with the external interpretive design team.

While the interpretive design is important to revealing to a visitor the history of a place in a meaningful, creative way it’s also important to balance this with the need to deliver a public library service. At the early stages, it’s easy to run with an interpretive concept and not think through how this will fit/sit alongside the library element. In our experience, it’s important not to allow the library element to be diluted by the interpretation.

On a recent project, the thinking was that the interpretation element of the project would flow through the library. It wasn’t until our design team became involved and explained that “this isn’t how a library is run – the library has to offer service delivery”. It’s not as straightforward as you would think to integrate interpretive elements into a public library space where categorisation, stock, shelving and layout all involve complex design and planning. In the end, rather than trying to integrate the interpretation into the library, it now has its own space.

The secret is for the library and interpretive design teams to work closely together from the very early stages of the project. What we don’t want is to leave the design open to interpretation!

Keep an eye out for our latest case study on how we combined interpretive design and library design as part of the Holyhead Market Hall project.

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