The project and the museum layout
The museum is considered a building typology in all respects, the project of which has undergone considerable variations throughout history. It is possible to divide its development into phases: the first period dates back to the seventeenth century, when the actual institution of the museum was not yet widespread but the doors of the noble residences that hosted pictorial collections and private sculptures used to be opened to a restricted public . It was only between the end of the 1700s and the 1800s that, following the French Revolution, the need arose to make public the cultural assets stolen from the noble class, placing them in places designed for this purpose. The first museums are thus designed with the aim of educating and informing a larger user base than in the past. Over the years, these buildings expand, hosting an increasing number of historical works and finds. This is how we arrive at the progressive implementation of exhibition halls and service spaces dedicated to welcoming and interacting with users.
The third phase of development involves the birth of the contemporary museum, conceived as a place of observation, education and multi-sensorial experience. It is important to point out how over time the users and the needs that bind it to the exhibition places change. For this reason, the museum is no longer conceived as a container of works to be observed only but as a place to educate and interact with them. The direct consequence consists in the progressive change of the design of the spaces and the components, studied on the changing needs of an increasingly curious public. In this regard, it is important to specify how the organization and the museum set up constitute a complex factor: they change depending on the time, location, theme, type of exhibition and the audience for which they are intended. However, there are some design rules that can be considered universal in order to achieve a successful result. The first aspect to consider is represented by the context and the building in which the exhibition is located. The dimensions, accessibility and characteristics of the place where the exhibition site is located are elements of fundamental importance that must be studied and known in order to start the design process. In fact, unlike the past, today we are more attentive to the visitor's mood with the aim of involving him and not boring him. It is good to consider moments of "pause" from the visit, moments in which the gaze is diverted from the work and rests on the environment or on the openings that overlook the external context. For this reason, for example, if a window can offer a pleasant view it should be used for parking, while otherwise it can be filtered with display panels or explanatory captions.
If you are in buildings of great value, the museum can also become a "museum of itself" thanks to an environmental reading of internal components such as floors, ceilings or stairs. It is therefore clear that it is essential to take into account the characteristics of the place and the architectural and historical consistency of the building hosting the exhibition and how important it is to best convey this information to the public who will visit the place. The latter is considered an actor of vital importance for the museum project itself: depending on the target of the recipients of the exhibition, the routes, the exhibition order, the location of the works will be studied and thermal, acoustic and visual comfort ensured. Furthermore, accessibility is of primary importance, guaranteed thanks to the total absence of architectural barriers. In order to obtain a correct interaction of the public with the museum spaces, it is necessary to analyze and better design the exhibition equipment. It is not just about the physical structures suitable for hosting the exhibits, but all those multimedia and interactive systems aimed at giving back to the customers a real experience.
Sounds, lights and colors convey precise sensations, leaving a well-defined memory to those who visit the museum. In fact, to date, this place no longer takes on the simple information function but becomes a promoter of culture with the aim of telling the story of each work, the context in which it was created. In addition, the added value is represented by the desire to educate by involving the visitor firsthand, making him feel an active part of the museum. It is therefore essential to consider the preparation of the works: the position, height, light, distances, accessibility of each individual object must be studied in order to ensure the visual comfort of the public and their correct and safe conservation. It is therefore possible to divide the design of the museum set-up into three areas: the first at the macro scale, focused on the relationship between exhibition and exhibition spaces, the second at an intermediate scale, focused on the relationship between the public and works and the last at the microscale, attentive to the characteristics of every single object.
The evolution of the museum from its origins to the present day
The museum, from the Greek "mouseion = dwelling of the muses", has very ancient origins and fulfilled the function of collector of works and goods that constituted the spoils of war. For this reason, its main purpose was yes to inform and transmit but also to glorify the deeds of the ruling dynasty (first generation museums). It is only during the eighteenth century that the museum was recognized as a real institution, a period during which wealthy Lords donated collections of works in order to preserve them and not disperse them. At the end of the century, these collections took on a public nature and for this reason the range of users who had access to them considerably widened. It is starting from 1814 that the first public museums in Northern Europe are built which will gain a growing consensus among users (second generation museums). From an architectural point of view, the first museums had a central plan with entrance and dome above.
The galleries were arranged around a patio instead. Subsequently, there is a significant expansion of the structures, with new additions covered and uncovered within the existing buildings. However, it was only in the twentieth century that the idea of creating ad hoc museums to house the works of contemporary culture and no longer only those belonging to the past made its way. These are large buildings, designed to accommodate interactive works and events, aimed at leaving the memory of an experience lived by patrons. These artifacts are characterized by a strong symbolic connotation and take great care of the relationship between the context, the exhibition space and the work. One example is the Center George Pompidou by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, built in Paris in 1977 with the aim of creating the first multifunctional museum in the city that would also act as an attraction pole for the entire area. In fact, it is the first museum with a cinema, auditorium and commercial establishments which has considerably enhanced a previously poor and under-exploited neighborhood.
Another famous case is represented by the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, built as part of an urban regeneration program dated 1993-96. In fact, previously on the lot there was a disused industry: Frank Gehry's goal was to revitalize a space that is close to the city center, providing it with a building capable of hosting large works. The latest and present-day museum generation is characterized by open buildings and places that analyze and display cultural characteristics of a specific area or territory (eco-museums, open-air museums).
Sometimes, we witness the recovery and refunctionalization of abandoned structures that once covered different functions. The Berlin Museum of Contemporary Art, for example, found a place inside an old railway station on the Berlin - Hamburg line. In 1987, additions generated today's complex which does not stand out as much for the particularity of the spaces as for the parties and the contemporary works it houses. In today's museums, there are often additional activities in addition to the classic exhibition activities, designed on the event that revolves around the specific exhibition. It is a different approach that wants to make the public more involved.
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