The return of museums lifestyle
British architect Amanda Levete gives a twist to the classic museum tour
In different museums around the world. Both the new MAAT museum in Lisbon and the historic Victoria & Albert Museum in London have changed how we move throughout the exhibitions and how we experience them.
Museums around the world are rethinking how to attract visitors. Trying to draw an immense number of people to a museum is no longer an objective in itself. The idea of masses of people photographing The Mona Lisa, standing in front of Las Meninas or contemplating the anatomy of Michelangelo’s David is not in line with the ways planners are designing exhibitions for the future.
Multi-purpose spaces and digital tools
During the Covid-19 confinement, the world’s leading museums have tried to reach the public digitally. The Prado museum began offering convenient and intimate analyses of its most exemplary works through live daily streaming, where spontaneity was more important than the technical quality of the transmissions. The result was a resounding success.
Welcoming back visitors for in-person tours is now being revisited. Architecture has been providing honest, thoughtful and advanced solutions for many years through multi-purpose smart spaces, which prevent people from clustering together and lead their experience and movement in other ways.
Amanda Levete (Bridgend, Wales, 1955) is a brilliant architect. Many of her projects are focused on the development of new museums, extensions and updates that respond to the new codes of design. Her works include the Lisbon Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT) and the extension to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. She offers a new, sometimes surprising, vision of the conventional evolution of a museum.
“Amanda Levete’s projects galvanise the development of new museums with the new codes of design”
The prestigious architect is an energetic woman who knows precisely what she wants and has a blunt way of expressing herself. When talking about any of her works, she promotes change through extreme but possible ideas. Her studio and operations centre is located in London and is made up of a team of 50 people. Despite the clairvoyant perspective of the founder, the projects are driven by a collaborative, dialogue-driven approach where the teams of architects exchange ideas and cooperate fully.
Science and architecture at the MAAT Museum in Lisbon
In this unique space and former coal factory dating back to the beginning of the 20th century, Amanda questioned the concept from a scientific approach and brought traditional ideas into question. It is an open museum in Lisbon’s Belém neighbourhood and was conceived as a way of strengthening the relationship with the Tagus River and its shores from a new avant-garde perspective. Both its interior and exterior demonstrate the interconnectedness between design, contemporary art, architecture, technology and science.
The rich tradition of Portuguese handicrafts and ceramics has been a clear influence on the forms and structures. High-relief tiles cover the façade and reproduce the reflections of water and changes in light throughout the day.
The overhanging roof becomes an outdoor hall where visitors can enjoy the panorama of their city with their backs to the Tagus River.
The new perspective of the Victoria & Albert Museum
The extension to the Victoria & Albert Museum saw a renovation of the courtyard and the addition of a new entrance and a temporary exhibition hall. This last space was built underground with an open, bent-profile roof that allows light to enter. This is the largest extension the museum has undergone in its more than 100 years of history.
The key point is the Sackler Courtyard entrance, which has become a public space and an square open to the city. The courtyard functions as a transit area or a space for observing façades that were once hidden.
The cafeteria and the store are significantly important in terms of how people move. The two parallel staircases subdivide movement from one space to another. The black lacquered wood contrasts with the white walls and the intense red of the exposed metal structure. The skylight highlights the directional arrows that visitors must follow.
Amanda Levete: “Taking a radical stance from the beginning helps us to open up new horizons”
Amanda Levete’s fundamental pillars for the world’s museums
In both projects, the main concept is centred on opening the spaces to the city. New squares, rest and observation areas, interaction between urban and cultural spaces.
Generating a more dynamic and versatile internal flow of visitors with interconnected internal and external paths. Her projects lend importance to innovation in materials and in new and experimental structures, in addition to how new technologies interact with local tradition. As the architect says: “Taking a radical stance from the beginning helps us to open up new horizons”.