The Science Museum

Refurbishment and expansion of museum retail shop Design: Din Associates

Refurbishment and expansion of museum retail shop

Design: Din Associates

John Harvey, Design director, Din Associates

“The overall project is a new suit of clothes for the museum. We’re designing the new entrance concourse, plus refurbishing the associated retail gift shop in the Museum, which is an integral part of the concourse.

“We’re also doing the packaging for the gift shop, the graphics and the new identity.

“In the future, we will be designing a retail unit in the new Wellcome Wing, which opens in the summer, but the concept for that is some way off; we’re awaiting a brief for that element.

“Essentially, the Science Museum wants to represent itself with a bigger gallery space, an Imax Cinema and, of course, the new Wellcome Wing. The retail area is a kind of an introduction to what the Wellcome Wing is about. At the moment, the schedule is completion of the concourse before Easter and completion of the retail unit in May.

“The existing retail space has been very successful (it was designed about eight years ago) but the museum found that it was very much geared to the children that visited the museum. With the redesign the museum is hoping to maintain that business, but also appeal to older people and sell more adult-based products, and create a sense of theatre to make the shop a bit of an event. It’s the exit route for the museum, so it has to be quite robust.

“The main concourse and the retail area are linked together, so part of the challenge was to make it feel like an easier transition. People used to think you had to pay the entrance fee before you could get into the shop.

“The entire retail space has been expanded. The original size was 210m2 and we have increased the floor area by 45m2. What we had to do was differentiate areas for adults and kids – and create an area for higher-spending adults.

“To create the drama and theatre needed, from the main concourse we have four huge cubes hanging from the ceiling, white stretch fabric with metal frames. Inside there are gelled lights so you get a white-to-blue fade effect.

“External to these there are two theatre projection lights. These will show the new graphic identity for the shop, but unfortunately we can’t say the name at present. But in the future they can be used in different ways, that is, as a promotional device. That’s the big thing to pull people into the space.

“For the older customers we are almost trying to create an exhibition of the higher-priced objects, so you see individual objects, beautifully lit – the stock base is sight-concealed. The back of each showcase is backlit. It’s very much treating the retail offer as objects.

“For the kids we’ve created table top rubber and aluminium bins, ‘pick’n’mix’ style, each one full of one type of product, lots of small ‘pocket money’ type goods.

“The furniture will be quite monolithic and architectural. The cash desk, for instance, which is covered in rubber has to be as flexible as possible. We’re also putting in new rubber flooring in some of the space.

“The thing about the shop is it’s part of the whole museum experience and, for many, it’s the end part of the experience – they’re taking some of the museum away with them.”

Bryn Jones, Head of Trading, the Science Museum

“Overall, we want to create a Science Museum Shop brand; we’d already put our toe in the water in terms of high street retail with the concession we operate in Selfridges. We want to position it as a shop of the future. The existing shop was in real need of refurbishment – the last refit was an update five years ago. But overall it’s a destination in itself for many people.

“We invited three design consultancies to tender for the job, each one with good retail backgrounds. We get about l.5 million visitors a year and we are expecting to get up to l.8 million with the opening of the new wing. So we needed that retail experience to create the front concourse and shop as an integrated scheme.

“Din Associates’ work with French Connection and its association with the shop at the Althorp Museum was impressive – and Din, in turn, was keen to break into the museum sector. We had to find a consultancy which could deliver quickly – and Din Associate’s interpretation of what we were after was the best.”

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