IMCC 2022 Conference

Our Associate Director, David Palmeri, has been reflecting on an insightful 3 days in Oslo last week at the IMCC 2022 conference.

The event provides a great forum to connect with museum colleagues, including those from cultural institutions, architects, engineers, and exhibition designers, to discuss topical issues within the sector.

It was fascinating to hear about a number of up-and-coming European museum projects and the challenges they’ve faced working on what are typically one-off projects with large and complex client organisations and design teams. A couple of key themes that were particularly pertinent to our role as design managers…


Managing stakeholders:

Museum projects’ one-off nature requires careful attention in the management of stakeholders, and it was good to see parallels in the Natural History Museum of Denmark (due to open in 2024) to our own experiences supporting architects on large cultural projects such as the Museum of London’s relocation to West Smithfield and the National Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in London.

Key learnings for successfully managing stakeholders:

  • Making sure each stakeholder is aware of how their role and input fits into the wider picture.

  • Take time at the start of the project to carefully plan out the timing and frequency for engaging with the multitude of user experience groups – then consolidate the plan as much as possible so that it’s clear and easily accessible to all.

  • Make time to incorporate a peer review process by external museum specialists. This is a great way of ensuring the project is delivering what you intended to at the outset.

As Design Managers supporting architects under the lead consultant or lead designer role, Plan A regularly produce targeted presentations and documents to explain the design process to the wider Client Team and when their inputs are required.

Collaboration between architects and exhibition designers:

We heard from both the architects and exhibition designers of the Netherlands Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai and the Norwegian Jekt Trade Museum, continuing the debate on how to get the best out of this collaborative process when designing museums.

Key learnings for optimising the integration of architecture and exhibition designs:

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to determine when each party should be engaged (should the architecture lead the exhibition design, vice versa, or indeed develop simultaneously) as this really depends on the specifics of the project (budget, time frame, new build vs reuse, definition of the brief and vision, etc).
  • However, what is clear is that for the process to stand a chance of obtaining the best results, both parties need to be aligned in their understanding of the client’s vision for the project, open to each other’s approach and ideas, and acknowledge the times when you need to give as well as take.

  • If the exhibition(s) is not designed in parallel to the architecture, then a reasonable amount of overlap between the two design processes should be allowed for. Ideally the architect should be retained in the project post completion of their typical role to review and input into the exhibition design process.

  • Often the design of commercial offers in museums is commissioned separately, but for a truly holistic experience for the visitor, this needs to be considered in parallel.

Plan A regularly advise on the timing of engaging specialist designers in museum projects and support in identifying and setting up design teams.

The event was a thoroughly enjoyable 3 days, and we look to forward to continuing these debates at next year’s conference in Antwerp!

Projects Practice