The location of museums is of paramount importance and it should enjoy specific features. Museums should be located in places where they would be accessible for everybody. In light with their cultural characteristics, museums are better to be located close to libraries, schools, universities, and other cultural centers since it will provide opportunities for museums to be visited by individuals who commute to these educational or cultural places. Nowadays, museums are usually constructed at parks or within a green space area as trees treats surrounding air, create necessary humidity, and fight against dust, smoke and noise. As a result, the surrounding green environment works as a protection for museums. Construction of museums at green areas entails another advantage. During pleasant weather conditions, some items of museums could be transferred to the premise and present them which would attract more visitors.
Needless to say that not only the appearance of museums but also interior decorations should be completely compatible with common architectural methods of the society. Buildings of museums should contain some aspects of art and history of the society. When incongruent and incompatible architectural elements are used, a museum will be established that is completely in contrast to ordinary lives of people or it will be constructed in a way that is so luxurious and farfetched. Consequently, people hesitate visiting museums or turn away from them whereas one of the quintessential principles of museums is attracting visitors.
Museums and exhibitions are special types of spaces where not only a complex relationship exists between the man and the space but also between the space and the object. As a man determines his relationship with his surrounding environment, an object is understood in its surrounding environmental conditions and in relation to it. In specifying relationship between a man and an object, or between numerous objects or between objects and the space, usually a series of sizes, shapes and proportions are formed. Features of environmental conditions, objects and created structures are so complex that the final goal is determined through an experimental process. As these spaces are based on the visual reactions of visitors, planning and designing the process of presenting artifacts and visitation spaces of visitors are closely interconnected to movement drivers as the main guiding agent in architecture.
Time is one of the most influential factors for spatial organization. As the capability of recording the human perception remains constant, the manner of presenting collections and their combinations should be compatible with their visitation time. A large exhibition with compact information might be less boring than a small exhibition with movement limitation. Accordingly, the temporal factor is of special psychological importance in terms of collections, spatial organization and aesthetical effects of the environment. Spatial fluidity emanating from special conditions of designing exhibition spaces causes freedom in visitors’ movement and their experimental understanding of the space. The colorless and empty space is revived as the result of dominance of the dynamic human and his relationship with static objects. Each of these objects enjoy particular spatial conditions and turn into fluid, flexible, effective and influential environment.
Spaces of museums are partitioned by different methods. From the performance perspective, the museum space can be categorized into four groups as follows:
In light of this classification, it is apparently preferred to design museums in a way that spaces of the third and fourth categories have their own exclusive entrances.
Museums with simple, smooth and legible plans are so successful. Primary organizational diagrams should be categorized and organized according to public parts and collections. It is clear that various parts of buildings of museums have their own particular performance needs in terms of security, ventilation systems, temperature controls and light controls. The arrangement of different parts, entrance procedures, welcoming, and internal circulation at museums paly central and decisive roles in spatial feelings created for visitors of museums. The internal circulation of museum spaces can determine all emotions and experiences of visitors of museums. This experience should be pleasant and integrated. The general circulation covering pedestrians and vehicles should be clears and logical.
Capacity of collections for expansion and flexibility
Museum spaces should always be designed in a way that it would be possible to develop them in the future. This possibility should exist at least in theory. Such a potentiality should be taken into consideration in architectures of museums both in their appearances and structures. However, it is noteworthy that apart from historical buildings whose functions have changed, such possibility exists only in new buildings. Galleries and internal spaces of museums should enjoy the flexibility for changed in shapes and forms to get their appropriate functions for displaying different collections. To achieve this goal, we can take into consideration mounting dynamic walls inside fixed environmental walls to make optimal changes.
Nowadays, they try to make exhibition halls flexible when they construct museums. In other words, they try to build halls and rooms of museums in a way that it would be possible to make changes easily and change their shapes and sizes as needed. However, these changes do not result in changes in overall frameworks of rooms, entrances, exits, lighting systems, and technical equipments such as security alarms and ventilation systems. To make exhibition halls flexible, one can make use of walls with light panels that are hinged and connected to each other. These panels or walls can be used individually or collectively. However, it is not customary to make use of panels in lots of museums, rather the traditional methods of static halls are applied and consequently predetermined items can be presented at museums. Irrespective of using either temporary and dynamic panels or static halls, the display halls should be constructed in a way that visitors can circulate easily at museums and look at objects from all dimensions. Therefore, open spaces should be created at exhibition halls so as that visitors pass through these spaces as they wish. As a result, visitors can visit different spaces they choose and they leave museums without visiting all parts after visiting just one collection or one category of properties of museums.
There should not too many entrances to museums. Additionally, too many halls should not be constructed in parallel since visitors might be get lost on their tours. If lots of halls exist on two sides, it is recommended to consider a hall between halls in order to facilitate circulation of visitors from one hall to the next.
Rooms of the same sizes are so monotonous and bore visitors. It is possible to create subconscious motivation for attracting visitors by creating diversity and proportionality in sizes and applying diverse colors on walls and floorings. Furthermore, designing spaces along with a direct line causes monotony. Therefore, it is recommended not to mount any windows opposite to entrance doors since upon his arrival, the visitor experiences the glare. To attract each and every visitor’s attention to shapes and sized of rooms, they should be of different sizes and proportional to sizes of galleries. The lighting systems should be in tandem with sizes of rooms. Ceiling lights are more diverse as one can always adjust the light with the view of sizes of rooms. Lateral lighting is suitable for shallow spaces. Walls of these spaces should form a right angle in relation to the light sources. One of the most important issues in designing museums is directing the architecture towards sustainable architecture, i.e., designing architecture and applying modern technologies should be performed to optimize energy consumption and minimize energy loss. Some measures in the field of modern construction technologies can assist architects to realize sustainable architecture. Some of these measures include solar panels, new water recycling systems and thermal insulations that could be utilized in utilities of buildings.
Halls and entrances
The optimal plan of museums is the one that includes one single entrance for both entry and exist as the maximum level of security is provided for museums. Should visitors arrive at museums by different means, they need to be guided to a single path leading to the main entry and this can be realized through designs. It is possible to consider a separate entry for the staff. Entrance doors should be not only seen completely, but also they should be deep enough. In case of double doors, one door should get open after the other one is closed completely to prevent penetration of external dust, temperature and humidity.
As the entrance and lobby play an important role in creating the overall spatial emotion and ambience of museums, special attention should be paid to their symbolic representation. It is recommended to make use of the natural light and windows for these spaces. The entrance doors of museums should be designed in a way that guards can protect and supervise them easily. Doors of museums need to be simple in terms of decorations and be consistent with the local and familiar architectural styles of the society. Furthermore, doors should be large enough that lots of people can enter or leave easily an any moments. The main entrance door should be double with a four-meter distance between them in order to delay thermal exchange and to provide a better supervision and control over entry and exit.
The ticket offices of museums should be designed in a location that enjoy sufficient view over the external space and provide enough space for forming lines by visitors so as that visitors do not crowd on pavements nor prevent circulation of other visitors to museums. It is better to design box offices in a way that their doors get into the waiting hall. However, doors should not be designed in a manner that when get opened, their indoors become visible. Their areas should allow for at least 3 square meters of space per person.
Waiting hall and furniture
These spaces should be designed in a way that attract people and represent museum types since the waiting hall is the first part of the museum where visitors enter. The waiting hall should not be so large to create a sense of getting lost by visitors but is should be big enough that visiting groups can easily congregate there and then move towards exhibition halls. The waiting hall should not be filled with furniture. Rather, a few chairs and benched would be enough. There should be 10 chairs for every 100 visitors. The museum map should be placed on walls of the waiting hall. Museum catalogue should be put on desks or small sands in the waiting hall. The clock, telephone booth, post box and internet connectivity are essential facilities of this part of the museum. The most appropriate relationship between the waiting hall and exhibition hall can be created by two doors directed towards the exhibition hall. The existence of these two doors make it easy to circulate in halls and to supervise these doors. At museums where the entry and exit are controlled by electronic devices, one can install them in the area where two main doors of halls are located.
Movement paths of exhibition halls should be designed in a manner that visitors can easily move around and see objects from all different sides. Therefore, it is not correct to create one-way path in the exhibition hall. The best policy is creating the open space at exhibition halls so as that visitors pass through them, visit wherever he wishes and leaves the museum after visiting even some parts rather than all collections.
Color and material of walls and flooring at museum halls
The color and material of walls and flooring at museum halls is of great importance. White was used as the color of walls in the past since it was believed that objects could look better in the white background. However, modern experts maintain that object look darker in the white background. Therefore, colors are chosen for walls of museum halls to make it possible for objects to look better in the white background. To prevent monotony of halls, one can make use of light colors in spots with less light and/or paint the wall exposed to direct lights a little darker. Materials of walls of museums should be compatible with local and climatic conditions of constructions. Selecting suitable floorings is another noticeable point for museum architecture as visitors always are on the move. Generally, two points are necessary to be observed for designing movement paths as follows:
Relationship between space and properties
To represent its characteristics, every object needs specific space. As spatial features of the space determine the shape and position of objects, spaces should be so organized to be compatible with these features. Psychologically-speaking, understanding the object and its surrounding space creates a unified system. At every gallery, the object displayed at the best spot enjoys special location priority and more emphasis placed on it from the architectural perspective. Hence, one can note that architecture is a decisive factor in the environment and it should not be looked at as a marginal issue. Relationships between several objects and between objects and space create a series of shapes, sizes, distances and proportions that follow psychological criteria of designing which are followed by artistic objects.
In a static gallery (where objects and fixed and unchangeable), the shape of the building can directly affect the object and can be designed in proportion to it. In a gallery with a flexible identity, we can reach this goal only by internal zoning which entails subconscious guiding of visitors whom we have to attract and encourage to look at objects more carefully, think about them and take some further steps for conducting researches about them.
Arrangement of objects
Arrangement of objects on display depends on visitors and features of objects. The relationship between visitors and objects on display follows these rules:
The content of museums can be displayed based on various pattern of curatorial arrangement as follows:
The display case (also called showcase, display cabinet, or vitrine) should be made of strong, nonfragile and transparent tempered glass (usually transparent acrylic) which is protected against dust and bugs by hardware and rims
surfaces, used to display objects for viewing. Objects inside display cases are often accompanied with labels containing information such as descriptions or values of objects. It is necessary to pay attention to the shape, design, color and materials of hardware applied in display cases as well as their ease of cleaning. The showcases should be high enough to make it possible for visitors to look at cultural properties without bending over or standing on his toes in an easy manner. Different studies have revealed that the appropriate height for objects on the curatorial display is between 90 centimeters from the floor and 30 centimeters higher than the eye level.
Four important factors for designing showcases of museums include light, humidity and environmental pollution. Controlling environmental conditions of smaller environments such as vitrines is more difficult than bigger ones since they are completely closed but their indoor conditions is affected by the external surrounding conditions. Humidity changes inside showcases might be not too much but when light sources are inside them, their temperature changes so high when the light source is turned on and off which is harmful for any artwork inside the display case. Two solutions are usually recommended for solving this problem. The first solution is placing the thermal source away from the properties as much as possible. The second solution is making use of automatic systems for controlling humidity and temperature in these environments. One common strategy is placing certain materials at these places that attract energy and release humidity when heated as the result of active light sources. These materials function the opposite when the light source is off at nights. The other important factor is the air volume inside the showcase. If two much air exists inside the showcase, it might affect the performance of these materials.
Form-wise, showcases can be categorized into following categories:
A display platform is a structure upon which the objects are placed and it provided them the possibility of a 360-degree show. As a result, arrangement of objects would be more flexible in the gallery. If a stronger structure of the display platform is used, one can show objects as heavy as some thousands of kilograms. The lower base of the display platform makes it possible to get access to the security hardware, the humidity control section and other parts of the display platform. It is very important to pay attention to regulations of preservation of properties in internal spaces of museums recommended by the International Council of Museums (ICOM).
Fire alarm systems
Irrespective of various protective mechanism against fire, the fire alarm systems are generally categorized into two main categories namely conventional and addressable systems that are applied differently in different locations in light of place requirements. Efficiency and speed of fire alarm systems depend on the type of their defectors. Detectors fall into different categories including thermal detectors, smoke detectors (either optical smoke detectors or ionization detectors, X-ray detectors, spark detectors, laser systems, torch detectors, suction systems and manual systems.
The skeleton of curatorial buildings should withstand fire for at least two hours. The fire alarm bells should be mounted in different location of museums. Next to all interior doors and doors connecting different parts of museums, some metal doors should be mounted. In case that the temperature goes up indoors or a certain amount of smoke is releases, these metal doors would automatically fall on the main doors and prevent the spread of fire and smoke. If air circulation and ventilation at museums are carried out through different channels, some measures should be taken for covering these channels to prevent the spread of fire to other parts via these channels. The manual fire extinguishers that are commonplace at all public buildings should contain gases of the carbon dioxide family so as that they themselves do not cause damage to curatorial collections.
Fire extinguishing systems
These systems are used for extinguishing fires and they are of two general types namely automatic and manual systems. Fires can be placed into four classes depending on what material is burning as follows:
Choosing the right type of extinguisher compatible with the type of fire is very important since fire might spread if a wrong type of extinguisher is chosen. Most of manual extinguishers(cylinders) bear labels indicating the type of fires they can be used for. Generally, extinguishers are of three main types as follows:
Importance and application of ventilation systems at museums
The air inside galleries should be distributed consistently and it should be adjustable and controllable. Therefore, the most appropriate system for meeting these conditions is applying air handling units (AHUs) since these units can cover all factors that are required to be adjusted and controlled. These factors include temperature, air humidity, pollutants existing in the air and the noise level. As various objects are put on display at museums and different environmental needs exist at exhibitions, storage areas and workshops, it is necessary to design and develop curatorial air conditioning systems in line with functions of intended museums (such as archeological or ethnographic functions) as well as incorporation of comfort of visitors. Accordingly, following points are recommended to be taken into consideration:
Note: Electrostatic filters are not recommended to be used at museums since they produce ozone gas. Pollutants can enter the museum by visitors. Installation of various sensitive and appropriate filters on the circulation paths of the fresh input air can be effective to prevent these pollutants. Additionally, disposable shoes can be provided for museums to reduce entrance of dust to museums. Another method for preventing dust from entering museums is pressurizing the indoor air by air handling units that hinder the entrance of dust.
The temperature of 15 °C and the relative humidity of 60% is suitable for most of exhibitions. The relative humidity should not decrease or increase as it directly affects object on display. Generally, the relative humidity of 50-60% is recommend for exhibitions
According to researches, the ultraviolet beams are detrimental to museum objects since they lead to chemical reactions in objects and increase the temperature. The ultraviolet beams with short wavelength and enormous energy leave photochemical effects that cause erosion of organic materials. Results of studies on degradation caused by light beams and energy indicate that following factors are instrumental in these effects:
Optical sensitivity of objects
Degradation of materials as the result of optical beams depends on the essential resistance of materials, energy emitted from the light source and susceptibility of materials exposed to lights. Non-organic materials such as metals, stoned and ceramics are less susceptible to lights. Impacts of optical beams on various materials are presented as follows:
Lighting at exhibition halls
The natural light is one of the main elements of museums which contributes to power consumption, too. The natural light needed can be procured through the roofs of halls and skylights. In case that it is not possible to make use of the roof light, one can install fixed windows or sash windows. These windows should be installed at a certain height of walls so as that visitors can see outside. Objects made of solar heat such as ancient clays and potteries are seen more vivid under the natural light. However, some oppose installation of windows on museum walls. They maintain that it would cause security problems particularly windows installed low height. They assert that display cases cannot be mounted on walls opposite to windows since objects inside vitrines might reflect light and it hinders visibility of other objects. Windows should not be mounted in a way that attract the attention of visitors to the external environment and distract visitors from museums. The most noticeable advantage of using natural lights is reducing energy costs.
On its own, the solar light is not sufficient for curatorial lighting. Therefore, it is necessary to install a fixed and powerful source of electric light on the ceiling of every hall. It is essential to make use of several moving lights in order to make use of mobile exhibition equipments such as panel vitrines. Small bulbs inside showcases as well as spotlights and lights focusing on objects are needed to shed more lights on objects. Each of these lights should have their own switches to function independently. When these lights are used, the ceiling lights should be turned off to avoid interference in their effects.
In all parts of museums including external parts, the conference hall, corridors and the basement, energy-saving lights can be used. They are so economical but they might be harmful for objects as they contain ultraviolet rays. It is necessary to reduce ultraviolet rays using insulation or filters in order to absorb harmful parts of beams. UV filters or titanium dioxide reduces the UV rate. Certain typed of fluorescent lamps contain a little amount of UV and therefore, there is no need for filters in these lamps.
It is better to take measures at galleries that visitors go from highly illuminates areas to dimmer areas since our eyes can be adapted to different colors without any problems.
According to researches, the electric flashes are the best light source for taking photographs at museums. Concerning application of electric flashes, ICOM has drafted guidelines. Some highlights of the flash photography instructions are as follows:
When museums are closed, vitrines are covered with metal plates that are hidden between walls during visitation hours. In fact, display cases are placed inside strong metal containers when museums are not open to visitors.
Sound levels can be controlled at museums by taking into account this point at the time of architectural designing of buildings by means of spatial zoning and soundproofing (if needed). The standard noise levels at different spaces are approximately as follows:
In case that hard covers are used at museums, special attention should be paid to make use of absorbent materials such as woods, textiles and appropriate floorings to mitigate unpleasant acoustic conditions of these spaces. Installing absorbent panels at exhibitions of museums is greatly instrumental to control their acoustic conditions. Gradually, light construction materials such as plaster plates or hollow blocks are replacing brick walls. Therefore, should a museum is located close to busy streets, it should be made soundproof as much as possible.
Other buildings annexed to museums
These halls are required to de designed for modern museums. These halls should possess following specifications:
– They should be located close to entrances of museums.
– They should be completely equipped with security equipments.
These halls should be big enough to be used for different purposes. Like the indoor halls, these external halls should be flexible enough to be adapted for various applications as needed. Temporary exhibition halls and conference halls should contain welfare facilities for visitors
Libraries and documentation centers are among essential parts of museums. Sizes of these spaces depend on the number of books, the area of museum and the number of curatorial objects and properties. Development of libraries should be taken into consideration while designing museums since development of museums is closely connected to development of its libraries. Libraries of museums follow the same regulations applied at all other libraries. Together with books, other items such as photographs, film negatives, slides, cassettes of speeches and audiovisual materials related to museums need to be added to the archives of museums. Additionally, libraries should be equipped with Xerox and scanning tools as well as computerized communication equipments. The spaces allocated to reading rooms should enjoy necessary facilities. Fire alarm and fire extinguishing systems should be mounted at libraries. It is recommended that bookshelves to be made of metal. Walls, doors and floors should be insulated as much as possible. It is recommended to consider a door at the end of curatorial spaces to make them more comfortable for visitors,
It is necessary to build reservoirs and storage areas in designing all museums. Storage areas could be constructed at the basements, upper floors and/or at another building at the premised of the museum. Storage areas of museums should be free from humidity and they should be completely dry. Appropriate and sufficient illumination, lighting and ventilation should be considered for storage areas to have the most optimal air circulation and environmental settings. Storage areas should be large enough to provide spaces for packaging of objects when needed. Trust objects are often kept at storage areas and/or reservoirs. It is recommended that the main storage area is constructed in a location far from the central heating system, electricity meters and other electric devices.
It is necessary to consider a workshop when designing museums. The workshop needs to be equipped with commercial, mechanical and electrical devices and equipments for conducting necessary maintenance operations. Workshops are noisy places. Therefore, it is recommended to build workshops in a location whose operation does not disturb functions of curatorial spaces next to them.
Laboratories should be constructed at museums in order to undertake restoration, repairs and conservation of properties. Laboratories are engaged in various physical and chemical activities.
To design modern museums, architects always allocate certain spaces to teahouses and cafeterias close to conference halls. Teahouses not only contribute to richness of museums with their benefits added to museums but also they are essential for any museum. Cafeterias or teahouses can function as a place where the youth come together and exchange ideas. Cafeterias and teahouses make visitation more beneficiary and visitors can rest there for some moments and after being refreshed they can continue their visits. Additionally, curatorial cafeterias and teahouses are considered formal spaces since it is the best and the most appropriate place for the staff to exchange ideas and discuss.
Spaces allocated to administrative affairs depend on sizes of museums, their activities and the number of the staff. The administrative part should be separated from other exhibition parts. Maximum efforts should be made to prevent noise penetration of other curatorial sections to administrative parts. These spaces should be connected to museums through a separate door at the entrance point. There should be another exclusive door for administrative parts since work hours of the staff differ from opening hours and activities of museums themselves. An exclusive parking lot could be allotted to the staff, if possible.