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New Postgraduate Architecture Unit at London Metropolitan University

The unit, led by Nissen Richards Studio, will challenge students to design a ‘Museum for Now’

Architecture practice and cultural sector specialist Nissen Richards Studio is delighted to be leading a new postgraduate teaching unit at the School of Art, Architecture and Design, London Metropolitan University this year, starting this month. The unit will challenge students to design a ‘Museum for Now’, considering architecture from the point of view of experience and the way a series of spaces needs to be designed as a carefully choreographed route. A four-strong architect team from Nissen Richards Studio will share the teaching, including Director Pippa Nissen, Associate Architect Marie-Lise Oulmont and Senior Architects Andrea Hickey and Kate Coghlan.

‘The projects this year stem from the work of our practice and will draw on live and completed projects’, Nissen Richards Studio Director Pippa Nissen said. ‘We will spend time thinking about how a journey shapes our imagination and how we engage with history and our place in society. We have our own methodologies for our work that help us create a nuanced and engaging experience, which we will draw on with students in our unit.’

The unit will cover two projects in the course of the year: first, a smaller building to house an exhibition, and secondly a new museum building in the Hackney Marshes, based around a collection of the students’ choosing, complete with ancillary spaces, visitor entrance, café and shop. Themes will include light and materials, as well as how to make cultural buildings relevant today, including looking at how the pandemic has changed our view of culture and society.

The new unit arose after Nissen Richards Studio had spent time thinking about the meaning and relevance of museums – particularly during lockdown - having been asked by clients to re-evaluate and think about a more relevant and mobile architecture that can respond to potentially shrinking audiences, visitor numbers and budgets and an appetite for shared public experiences. 

The pandemic accelerated several trends happening anyway in the world of museums, as people stayed at home and thought about the world around them – especially ideas around a digital future, sustainability and de-colonising museums. 

‘As museum design moves into the future, architects and designers need to find a new and appropriate way to display collections, whilst fundamentally re-assessing what a museum means’, Pippa Nissen stated. ‘It is also a moment when we are questioning objects and where these come from. We are interested in the invisible storytellers from history, who may not be present in collections, and how we can draw out parallel curatorial stories that are more relevant to today.’

As a sub-theme, the unit will also consider light as a lyrical tool for telling stories and to create better and healthier spaces. Another theme will be accessibility and equality for all, so that spaces feel the same whatever the visitor’s abilities or background. Sustainability will also be a central discussion point.

‘As a practice, we are delighted to have this opportunity to work with a new generation of upcoming architects’, Pippa Nissen commented. ‘This is a dramatic, but also exciting time for the future of museums and we’re looking forward as a practice to helping create the right skills to meet its challenges.’

Nissen Richards Studio