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St Albans Museum + Gallery

A new venue for the old city

Historically, the St Albans Museum was situated in a low footfall area. The old building was out of date, not easily accessible and the Museum team found it hard to attract visitors and important national touring exhibitions.

We worked with St Albans Council, with imagination, logic and rigour to move the museum into the centre of the city by showing how the old law courts could be refurbished into a new facility for both the Museum and an Art Gallery with flexible spaces for hire and hosting civic events.

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The museum has received several awards including

  • RIBA East Regional Award 2019 

  • RIBA East Conservation Award 2019

  • Highly Commended Project of the Year award at the 2018 Hertfordshire Building Futures Awards

  • Retrofit for the Future Award 

The museum received a 19 x increase in visitors from 17,000 visits per year to 193,000 in the first 7 months.

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For this project, Mowat & Company developed a ‘kit-of-parts’ that are materially aligned with the historic building’s simple palette Oak, brass, a muted set of soft greys. The kit is able to showcase anything from a Roman coin to a modern day work of art. These “parts” can be moved around the gallery allowing for receptions and events to take place without disrupting the look and feel of the exhibitions featured within them. Key to this was also to devise a circulation strategy for each gallery use ‘scenario’, allowing the gallery to schedule events to fit exhibitions rather than missing opportunities because of change overs.

The Design Process

This involved key areas of

1: Mapping galleries to show how the kit could be use

2 : Showcases to a Government Indemnity standard

3 : Graphics (branding, wayfinding and captions)

4 : Thresholds and security for events and changeover

5 : Retail Offer

Read more about the role the museum plays in the city here.

Photography by Cecelina Tornberg