Pauline Gandel Children’s Gallery, Melbourne Museum
- Museums Victoria Design Studio
The Children’s Gallery is an ambitious project that totally re-imagines what a Museum can offer its youngest audience: babies to 5 year olds.
It is grounded in child-led, play-based learning, that supports the multiple ways parents/carers and children interact with a museum. The new gallery re-development is 2000m2 including an outdoor area and a series of interior spaces.
The design includes wondrous, tactile and immersive experiences that are grounded in a range of museum expertise. It responds to the needs of visitors – creating a welcoming environment with comfortable areas to gather, sit and interact, clear sightlines and ample circulation.
One third of visitors with small children didn’t make their way through to the former Children’s Gallery.
Part of the design brief was to increase the number of visitors by bringing forward the presence of the Children’s Gallery into the museum to create a visual attractor. A 1/3rd scale steam locomotive provided the inspiration to create an iconic ‘Museum Station’ entrance.
The design has a child height entry through a tunnel which incorporates a stunning lighting sequence and custom soundscape, followed by a play-on train inspired area. Since the gallery opened, visitor numbers are 53% above forecast.
The 1200 sqm outside area is a part of the Children’s Gallery which had never been developed or used to it’s full potential.
This project provided the opportunity to create an engaging, tactile, exciting area to be used by our young audience as well as an outdoor café area.
A ‘dinosaur dig’, ‘discovery rock garden’, ‘living cubbies’, frog sculptures that croak and ‘spit’ water, large gathering areas, construction blocks, ample shading and a Crystal Cave are some of the design innovations making this space a great hit with families, education groups as well as mothers groups.
The ‘Big Box’ area at the West end of the gallery is a space with a sloping ceiling up to 13m high. The design challenge was to go ‘UP’ in a meaningful way that would utilise the void.
An enormous custom designed climbing structure with platforms at different levels was implemented to engage with children of different ages, as well as providing an open under-croft for small babies and carers to sit and play.
Once at the top, children get a view of the huge interactive spinning disc installation, filling the vertical wall with colour, movement and visual excitement.
The design of the spaces was informed with input from curators, children and adults, including parents, early childhood, health and additional needs professionals, who accumulatively contributed over 2,000 hours to the project.
This iterative and heavily design-led participatory process resulted in a multi-sensory, multi-modal and inclusive design outcome, which inspires children of all stages and abilities to play and learn on their own, with other children and with their carers.
Collaborations with landscape architects, industrial designers, illustrators, animators, sculptors, and sound & visual artists set a new benchmark for how the museum can engage in a cross-disciplinary manner.
A significant challenge for the team was to create spaces that could withstand up to 15 years of wear and tear from very young and active visitors.
A considerable amount of time went into researching resilient finishes and surfaces.
The longevity requirements challenged the designers to consider the use of materials in new ways and in innovative applications.
Flat-bed printing with durable finishes to veneers, laser etching graphics into compact laminates and the use of rubber rock and solid surfaces as internal finishes are some of the examples of material exploration, particularly in high wear areas.