Friday, September 23, 2011

Smithsonian: A Look at Lobby Scale and Direction

As you can tell my subjects for this presentation were the African Art Museum, American Indian Museum, and the American History Museum.  My focus for these examples was how the scale of the lobby space affects how patrons view the museum and then how that dictates the circulation to the exhibits.

The African Art Museum and the American History Museum were both opened in 1964 and the American Indian Museum was finalized in 2004.  This gives my examples 40 years of design doctrine to look at.

The African Art Museum's lobby space is the smallest of these spaces.  The tallness of the ceiling does give it a vertical appeal and with the choices of patterns and shapes this vertical sense is pressed downward.  That reflects that actual exhibition spaces which are under the ground.

On the other hand the American Indian Museum has the largest lobby space.  With a vertical skyward momentum this space moves the people through the levels of exhibits on the exterior of the lobby.  The circular shape helps literally circulate the people where they need to travel.

In comparison to both of the previous museums, the American History Museum does not have a vertical sense at all.  Its scale extends horizontally from the main entrance.  This horizontal movement tends to the layered affect of the exhibits in the museum as they are on the floors both below and above the lobby.

Through these examples we can tell how large lobbies, shaped and scaled correctly, help dictate where patrons of the museums should circulate.  And so over 40 years the same basic principles of a museum lobby space have been used.  By this we can tell that something in the formula must be going right.

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