Royal Botanic Gardens Kew seeks exhibition designers

The £150,000 tender details that Royal Botanic Gardens Kew plans to create a permanent exhibition in the Millennium Seed Bank atrium as well as other smaller visitor experience-based projects.

Royal Botanic Gardens Kew (RBG Kew) has launched a tender valued at £150,000 for the design of a permanent exhibition and visitor experience in its Millennium Seed Bank atrium at the Wakehurst, Sussex site.

The scope of the design work includes but is not limited to interior design, exhibition and interactive design, environment (e.g. sound, acoustics, incorporating living plants for aesthetic purposes), and collections display. Research and content production, 2D and 3D design, and spatial planning will also be in the remit of the chosen design consultancy.

Millennium Seed Bank atrium exterior. Image credit: RBG Kew

While the primary project will be the development of a new exhibition for the Millennium Seed Bank atrium, there may be opportunities to work on other smaller visitor experience-based projects during the length of the framework agreement.

According to the brief, RGB Kew requires a team with an in-depth knowledge of visitor behaviour that can be applied to environmental design for both outdoor and indoor spaces, as well as the design of mechanical and digital interactives. The exhibition and experience need to be accessible to a broad range of audiences, including differently abled and neurodiverse audiences.

One of the main goals of the exhibition and overall experience outlined in the tender documents will be to “stimulate intellectual and emotional connections” with RBG Kew’s scientific, horticultural and cultural assets. RGB Kew states that its aim is for visitors to leave the site with an understanding of its contemporary role as a botanic garden and scientific organisation as well as having engaged with something captivating – virtual of physical – on each visit. Visitors should also be encouraged to continue engaging with Kew following the visit.

This project links to RBG Kew’s wider strategy and goals, including its Manifesto for Change. In line with this, the Wakehurst site has an ambition to become a national centre of excellence by 2030. To do this, Wakehurst requires a stronger identity which encompasses its story and brand positioning, an interpretation masterplan, an audience development plan and more focussed content themes and tone of voice, which are currently in draft.

Millennium Seed Bank Vaults. Image credit: RBG Kew

Since RBG Kew is working towards becoming a climate positive organisation, it is keen to ensure that sustainability and environmental impact are drivers for the design, development and production of its visitor experience. In light of this, the chosen studio should be aware of sustainable solutions and actively promote these options.

RBG Kew will require the chosen studio to collaborate with its in-house experts working in horticulture and science, as well as the interpretation team based at Wakehurst. Its in-house creative services team is responsible for 2D design across RBG Kew and while the brief says that it will likely supply these services, for large projects such as the Millennium Seed Bank exhibition, it is expected that the design consultancy will provide additional 2D design support.

RBG Kew has allocated £60,000 (excluding VAT) for the exhibition design services. A further £30,000 (excluding VAT) will be available to the successful studio if it is chosen to be responsible for content development as well.

The contract start date is 12 June 2023 and will run for a four-year period. These four years will include the design development of the exhibition, ongoing collaboration with the build partner and may include other smaller design projects relating to visitor experience.

The deadline to apply for the opportunity is 20 March 2023.

Find more information on how to respond to the tender here.

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