Science Museum seeks lead designer for major gallery and exhibition project

The new Horizons Gallery has been afforded an estimated budget of £3.3 million – £3.7 million, with a fee of £274,000.

The Science Museum Group is seeking an architect and exhibition design team to work on its new landmark Horizons Gallery for a contract valued at £274,000.

Horizons Gallery (working title) will explore “how today’s scientific discoveries are shaping our future” and cover how science impacts ourselves, our planet and our universe, according to the brief. The project will be supported by the Peter Bennett Foundation and the lifespan of Horizons Gallery is expected to be ten years.

Exploring Space Gallery at The Science Museum. Image credit: Science Museum Group

The historic building that it will inhabit is currently home to the Exploring Space gallery and will need to undergo a restoration that considers both sustainability and the visitor experience. The lead designer will be responsible for the base build of the gallery and will either directly deliver or sub-contract the designers, artists or creative partners for the exhibition design services.

The Science Museum asks that the lead designer have experience in architectural restoration in a heritage setting and taking a “people-led approach” that focuses on creating “memorable visitor engagement”. It adds that visitor flow modelling experience is also required, as well as “a thoughtful understanding of interior design” and an approach that foregrounds sustainability.

Horizons Gallery will cover a range of topics, from climate change to antimicrobial resistance, and will aim to showcase how contemporary scientific innovations are tackling pressing global challenges. The space must be “hopeful and human-centred” and house the most current science stories, acting as “a hub for partnership, brand and communication opportunities” while increasing STEM awareness and developing “Science Capital” in its audiences, says the brief.

All elements of the gallery, from design to content and interpretation, should be guided by the concept of “science capital”, which the museum says “gives an insight into why and how some people participate in and engage with STEM-related experiences and why some do not”. The brief defines science capital as “a measure of your engagement or relationship with science, how much you value it and whether you feel it is ‘for you’ and connected to your life”.

The gallery is positioned near the start of visitors’ museum journey and an estimated 80% of visitors pass through it. Visitor numbers can reach up to 12,000 people per day during school holidays, so the base build refurbishment must restore the space in a way that “opens up the gallery to its full spatial extent, improving circulation for visitors in this area of the museum”, according to the brief.

Accessibility is just as important as making the design “visually spectacular” and museum says the gallery must be “welcoming and intuitively easy to navigate”. Its vision is that it will be “light, uncluttered, contemporary, and inspiring” while allowing visitors to “freely explore and interact with one another”. The space must also be easy to update and able to facilitate content changes in “a fully integrated and sustainable way”, says the brief.

The construction budget for this project is estimated at £3.3m – £3.7m for base build and gallery fit-out. The closing date to apply is 4pm on 22 November 2023, with the contract due to start 1 February 2024 and end 31 December 2026.

To see the full design brief, express interest on The Science Museum’s TendHost website.

Banner and featured image credit: Science Museum Group

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