Mather&Co hopes to strike gold with Royal Mint visitor centre

Mather&Co has worked on interpretation design at a new £7.7 million Royal Mint visitor centre where the factory will also be opened up to the public for the first time in 1,100 years.

Rio Artist Impression Visitor Centre

Mather&Co is behind the design of a £7.7 million visitor experience at The Royal Mint in Wales, which when open will coincide with public access being granted to the Mint for the first time in its 1100-year history.

The 1,900m2 visitor centre is set to open at The Royal Mint’s current home in Llantrisant, South Wales, in 2016. The Mint has previously been sited at The Tower of London and Tower Hill in London.

Mather&Co was appointed via tender this year and is working on exhibition design and interpretation, retail and some wayfinding, while Rio Architects – which applied to a separate tender – has designed the building, pictured.

Working within the constraints imposed by high security protocol Mather&Co says it has looked to tell the story of the Royal Mint and key historical events which have defined its history.

The consultancy is looking to do this through a number of interactives, which may include a “strike your own coin” machine.

As part of its brief to design and manage the design and delivery of the new visitor centre Mather&Co has also overseen the delivery of the separate factory tour, for which Mather&Co senior designer Paul Lee says “airport-style security” has been installed.

“There are no bags, buggies or phones allowed, anything with a camera…” according to Lee, who says visitors will get to see how the coins are made in the factory.

A small AV “scene-setter” prepares visitors for the tour before they return to a reception area and pick up their belongings from lockers after they’ve been scanned “to make sure they haven’t picked anything up”.

Lee says that a sculpture that is yet to be commissioned by Mather and Co will greet visitors and there will also be a temporary exhibition space next to the reception area.

The visitor centre begins with Mint and Its Community, showing key historic moments in time in a bid to show how “the entire monarchy has been represented on coins for 1,100 years” says Lee. It is told through graphics and digital displays as well as some archival objects.

Mint and the World investigates how the Mint strikes coins for 100 different countries in the world and will present this story with display cases and touch media.

“We’re thinking about having something with the working title Around the World in 80 Coins, which would be a touchscreen revealing designs pertinent to a particular country,” says Lee.

Making Money tackles the process of coin making through different eras and highlights advances. “The idea is that you lean how a coin was designed and that engravers were using recreation machines 150 years ago,” says Lee.

One of the interactives looks to explain this and will scale down visitor’s faces “to give them a sense of the mechanical process.”

A film is then introduced in a cinematic space where the screen wraps around visitors. Lee says that his team has played with scale “so that people will feel like they’ve ben shrunk down”. It will also give people a sense of the scale of production – “You’ll see that these modern machines can churn out 1,000 penny pieces every five minutes.”

This section will give way to The Other Side of The Mint, which explains its involvement in things like commemorative medals (it struck the 2012 Olympic ones) and military medals.

Visitors can look into cases at such objects and then watch a related film, which brings the recipients – soldiers, servicemen, athletes – to the fore. The small screen provides another change of scale from the cinematic experience, Lee says.

Meaning of Coins looks at the symbolism behind obverse and reverse characteristics. “For instance each time a new coin design is struck the head faces alternate directions,” says Lee, who adds, “We also look at the symbolism of heraldic design, give you a chance to create your own, and dress up as Britannia.”

In this section Mather&Co is also looking at giving people the chance to push themselves into a wall of blunt pins and leave a debossed impression of themselves. It would use the same technique as a popular child’s toy.

Lee says an interactive game may be created that would allow visitors to toss a digital coin, guess the outcome and see animated icons from coin heraldry such as griffins or dragons chase a character across a screen if they pick the wrong side.

This section leads onto Coins and Collecting, which explains why commemorative coins are collectable and how would be enthusiasts can get involved.

Finally visitors are led into the shop, which MAther&Co will also be designing.

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