Science Museum announces radical changes

London’s Science Museum could change beyond recognition in little more than five years, having developed strategic plans to extend, redesign and rebrand.

Proposals masterminded over the past seven years by Tim Molloy, head of creative direction at the museum, and conceptualised by architect Wilkinson Eyre, are being announced today at an exhibition marking the institution’s centenary.

Molloy will call on the design community to help implement his vision through a series of separate tenders and expects the redesigned museum to be open by 2015. ‘Museums are becoming more sophisticated and complex,’ says Molloy, ‘so designers will need to extend themselves beyond traditional museum design.’

The key to the project’s success, Molloy says, will be finding groups that can collaborate. ‘We need to ask, “How do you create a conversation between a collection of objects and public requirements?”,’ he explains.

In the proposal, Museum of The Future, a glowing beacon of glass and steel will protrude on to London’s Exhibition Road.

At ground level, the facade will be opened up to create an orientation space which will need signage, interactive maps, accessible information and mobile technology.

Molloy suggests the beacon may become a hub for exhibitions using digital design. ‘Somehow, we’ll need to make an orientation and connection between the Web, the outside and the inside of the building. We’ll be working with specialists,’ he says.

Three new sets of lifts will create ‘vertical connections’ between existing galleries, and a new rooftop SkySpace gallery will be built to explore the science of cosmology.

SkySpace will be a geometric form composed of a series of parabolas with the outer skin punctured to let in natural light and create star-like constellations. ‘To make a controlled light environment was part of our brief,’ says Paul Baker, director at Wilkinson Eyre.

Two new permanent spaces, known as the Treasury galleries, will sit at the heart of the museum, opening up existing and unused spaces to house the main collections.

Exhibition design specialist Casson Mann has been consulted by Wilkinson Eyre to help create the proposals.

‘A complete rebrand’ of the museum will take place ‘within the next five years’, according to Molloy, who confirms informal talks have taken place.

In the past Molloy and David Haseler, now strategy director at Smith & Milton, have been involved in a dialogue about replacing the word ‘museum’ in the institution’s title.

Haseler suggests the word is ‘traditionally associated with history and looking back, conjuring up images of the cold, dark and unemotional’, and suggests that the new identity will need to ‘tell the story of the future of science and engage everyone, not just children’.

Molloy concedes that the word ‘museum’ will probably not be dropped, but says the new identity will need to be something that ‘changes the way people think about museums and be entirely relevant to their lives’.

Museum of the Future

  • A 3D structure, The Beacon will protrude from the front of the building on to the street, changing the existing facade.
  • An orientation space will be opened up at the front of the building at street level
  • The new rooftop SkySpace gallery will explore cosmology and link to a new ‘destination cafe
  • The Treasury galleries are a series of redesigned and interlinked spaces at the heart of the museum
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