The Lapworth Museum of Geology has occupied Block A of the Aston Webb Building at the heart of the University of Birmingham campus for almost a century. The Museum contains the finest geological collection in the region, consisting of around 250,000 objects, most of which previously could not be displayed.
The museum is named after Charles Lapworth, who was the first professor of geology at Mason College – the forerunner of Birmingham University. Despite the quality of the collection that dates back to 1880, the museum was inward facing and relatively unknown to the wider community.
The University challenged us to provide scheme of transformation that would rejuvenate the museum improving the collection’s accessibility using new interpretive methods of display and providing dedicated facilities for school and community groups, whilst retaining its research focus.
Our proposal restored the historic scale and finishes of the main exhibition space, including the removal of walls at either end of the block’s hammerhead plan and replacing them with glazing where required. An existing mezzanine has been removed to create an education room accessible directly from the exhibition, which can be opened out for additional display space and for hosting events.
We worked closely with the Museum team and their exhibition designers to ensure the spaces were tailored to the Museum’s requirements and offered innovative and inclusive exhibiting solutions.
New toilets, office spaces and reception and shop were provided to improve the functionality of the space as a public museum.
From diamonds to dinosaurs; the museum which is free of charge, inspires and engages the public with treasures from the natural world. There was a collective focus recognising the fact that not every visitor is an adult, and smaller people need to be considered when thinking about layouts and display design.
Visitor numbers have doubled since its reopening in 2016 and it has been Shortlisted for Art Fund Museum of the Year 2017 award.