Don’t rush to dismiss the museums category

I was dismayed – and frankly astonished – to hear that no award has been made in the Museum, Galleries and Visitor Attractions category of the recent Design Week Awards.

We are fortunate in this country in having a mature and highly skilled museum and exhibition design sector that is not only sought after worldwide, but in many respects sets the standard around the globe. The companies shortlisted this year typify the outstanding talent we have in this sector.

Having worked with two of the companies shortlisted I know they have an honourable track record of design award recognition over two decades. They have consistently flown the flag for British design in this sector to beat international competition.

I thought that maybe when I looked down the long list of judges I might spot some museum and exhibition industry heavyweights – individuals who have shown year in, year out the ability to produce internationally acclaimed work on large-scale, complex projects combining a wide range of disciplines, including 3D, graphics and audiovisual, to create educational and enjoyable experiences for the public. In other words, I expected to see someone in a position to pass judgement in the category. Sadly, I was wrong.

To take the Hong Kong Wetland Park as an example, this has been an enormous success with the public and conservationists, and includes a walk-through recreation of a peat swamp complete with live crocodiles. It has achieved its annual visitor figures in its first five months of opening. Your judges seemed to have summarily dismissed it, on the basis of five photos and no site visit, as not worthy of award.

The Kelvingrove Museum project in Glasgow has also had spectacular visitor figures in its first year of reopening.

Chris Cawte, Design PM, Winchester, Hants SO22 6PY


Ed – Science Museum design head Tim Molloy is surely a museum ‘heavyweight’ and who would doubt the exhibition experience of Tim Pyne and Fitch’s Tim Greenhalgh. All were judges.

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  • Anne Perry November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I would like to know if the judges visited any of the museums? They showed a total lack of understanding of the refurbishment of Kelvingrove Museum. The judges stated that Kelvingrove Museum did not win because of the poor wayfinding solutions but this element was not part of the exhibition designer’s (Event Communications) remit who were shortlisted for the award. The wayfinding was designed by Fitch, a company which Tim Greenhalgh, one of the “heavyweight” judges works for. The redisplay of Kelvingrove Museum has received a very positive response from the public (2.6million visitors since opening) and the design and museum sectors and, is considered to have set a standard for museums internationally.

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