“Permanent pop-up” is the inspiration behind retail design consultancy, UXUS’s new museum store design for the Tate Modern.
The 500m2 store will open on 16 June in the museum’s new extension and work as an adaptable retail space that will constantly evolve.
Working with architects Herzog & de Meuron, George Gottl and Oliver Michell, the founders of UXUS brought their knowledge of high-end retail design to the Tate shop to create what they call “a crossroads of culture and commerce”.
“It’s about flexibility, says Gottl, “so that the museum can use best retail practices to help generate funds.”
Bespoke stackable furniture
The flexibility of the design is demonstrated by a bespoke system of stackable furniture, allowing for regular reconfiguration; as well as seats for events and reading. Displays can be easily adapted to reflect changing retail trends.
The displays are in three main parts. The first is what Gottl calls the “connoisseur” part, containing unique books for architecture students and other interested readers. The second Gottl calls the “Tate takeaway moments”, displays related to current exhibitions in the museum. The third is the family part, reflecting the museum’s focus on encouraging family engagement.
“Most museum shops don’t evolve”
“Our concern was that most museum shops don’t evolve”, says Michell. “They gather dust and get very uninteresting very quickly. The whole philosophy behind the store was that it could be rearranged to fit the times and reflect what customers are looking for.”
What are customers looking for? “High-end customers are looking towards the art world”, says Gottl. “They are looking to buy products that are made by artists but are not necessarily official art.” The kind of products that would sit in a museum store rather than the museum itself.
UXUS worked closely with Herzog & de Meuron’s aesthetic to reflect the industrial feeling of the architecture within the shop. The colour palette of black, brown and grey is used throughout the shop and museum to create a seamless transition between the two. Interfaces were a major consideration: how to maximise the views through the windows and from around bookcases.
Six year process
The tender for the project was won by UXUS six years ago. Due to funding issues, the project was halted for several years. Gottl and Oliver say this was difficult because they are used to the high turnaround of retail design and the delay caused a loss of momentum.
However, it did mean that they were able to test their ideas first on a Damien Hirst pop-up store for the Tate in 2012. “You can look at the Damien Hirst store as the pilot store”, says Gottl. “It didn’t have the materiality of the new store but it did have all the shape language and functionality.”
Gottl and Michell hope that the Tate shop will become a shopping destination within London and a destination in itself. From a Tate eraser to a Damien Hirst commercial product, they hope that their design will encourage accessibility to everyone.
And in the spirit of a permanent pop-up, they hope to see that the shop has changed and evolved every time they visit.