Museum spaces to showcase Cutty Sark conservation

The Cutty Sark, the historic ship and tourist attraction in London’s Greenwich, is undergoing a major conservation project, which will culminate at the end of next year with a visitor centre and museum space assembled under the ship.

Architect Youmeshehe has designed the visitor centre, along with the current temporary pavilion, in collaboration with graphics and exhibitions specialist Designmap and exhibition interiors expert Barry Mazur. Interactive installations are being designed by Heritage Multimedia, and lighting is by Business Design Partnership Lighting.

The temporary exhibition, which launched last week, will evolve over the next 18 months and aims to teach visitors about the conservation techniques and plans for the ship. The space is open plan and features a film about the vessel, interactive elements explaining the technology used in conserving the ship, along with graphics printed on sails and luggage tags.

In October 2008, the permanent centre will open, telling the story of the ship. Following an architectural design by Youmeshehe, the Cutty Sark will be suspended three metres above the dock and the exhibition space will appear underneath the vessel. There will be a glass canopy midway up the hull to look like a wave, giving the impression that the ship is sailing.

‘There is going to be an entrance through the lower hull,’ says Daniel Sutton, director of Designmap, which created the branding for the project and exhibition graphics for both spaces. ‘There will be sections within the ship where the tea and wool used to be stored. It is in these sections that the interpretation and exhibition elements will be sited. It is being developed at the moment and will involve 3D artefacts, lots of graphic interpretations, lighting, interactives and live interpretation.’

The designers aimed to make any evidence of the conservation obvious and clear, so the space did not take away from the ship itself, according to Mazur. He says his role is to bring together the content inside the centre.

‘I had to look at the content and how to present it. We wanted to focus on the authentic parts, really get down to the bare bones. It is quite dramatic to have a visitor centre underneath the ship. I love simple materials and I wanted it to be simple rather than in your face, so it is not just a razzmatazz of things. The design work will support what is happening with the ship, not detract from it,’ he says.

• The Cutty Sark was launched in 1869, destined for the tea trade, and is one of only three surviving composite-built vessels
• It is preserved today as a museum ship and is located on a dry dock in Greenwich, south London
• The Cutty Sark Trust is currently carrying out a major project to conserve the ship, which is scheduled for completion at the end of next year

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