Files in this item



application/pdfENGINEER-DISSERTATION-2015.pdf (143MB)
(no description provided)PDF


Title:State of the art: museum additions and their impact on occupant experience
Author(s):Engineer, Altaf
Director of Research:Anthony, Kathryn H
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Anthony, Kathryn H
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Frankenberg, Susan R; Santos, Carla; Malnar, Joy M
Department / Program:Architecture
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
work spaces
front stage
back stage
space syntax
content analysis
Abstract:This dissertation takes a critical look at the effects of art museum additions on occupants by addressing key questions: How does museum addition design affect visitors’ and museum employees’ perceptions and experiences of “front stage” areas such as art galleries compared to employees perceptions and experiences of “back stage” areas such as their work spaces? How does it affect the newly transformed museum building’s overall identity, image, spatial layout, and aesthetics? Vast sums of money spent to design, construct, operate and maintain museum additions demand great accountability of museum leaders and design professionals towards museum visitors and employees. In an age where “starchitects” design buildings from squiggles drawn on cocktail napkins, an urgent need for evidence-based design exists. Evidence from in-depth studies of human factors in relation to design are necessary to respond to visitors’ needs and the experience of viewing art. The museum narrative is framed not only by art objects but also by the space that contains them and how occupants experience this space. More post-occupancy evaluations of high-profile museum additions will help museum leaders and architects understand their successes, shortcomings, and how their designs affect both the visitors and the employees who use them every day. This study focuses on post-1970 building additions of four premier art museum institutions of the US: the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, MO, the Phoenix Art Museum in Phoenix, AZ, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, NY, and the Art Institute of Chicago in Chicago, IL. It employs a cross-section of methods consisting of assigning space syntactic typologies to museum spaces combined with on-site physical observations in all the four museums mentioned above, a qualitative content analysis of critics’ reviews on additions to all four museums in the popular press—before and after they were built, physical measurements of illuminance of back spaces of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and the Phoenix Art Museum and front spaces of all four museums, and collecting museum employee feedback via an online survey and on-site interviews at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and the Phoenix Art Museum. Most employees had positive overall opinions of the museum addition and also perceived their fellow employees’ opinions and visitors’ opinions as being positive, but they identified the need to make a number of improvements for accessibility and wayfinding in the museum. Observations confirmed these responses; the front stage spaces of museums for visitors were beset with problems of accessibility and wayfinding in both the new and old parts of the buildings—factors which also affected visitation levels in art galleries. Besides blockbuster shows and special exhibitions, the locations of art galleries (syntactic typologies) in the Met and the Art Institute were found to have an influence on their visitation levels. The lack of adequate amenities such as restrooms, water fountains, and seating, were also found to contribute to museum fatigue in visitors and employees. Museum fatigue had also increased in proportion with building size due to new additions; this was clearly a growing concern among museum employees. The majority of light levels in art galleries were at optimum settings for art conservation. Many of them, however, did not meet accessibility requirements for ambient lighting, reading text panels, directional signage, and looking at specimens or objects, creating safety concerns and denying equal opportunities to individuals with disabilities. Art gallery lighting also added to the numerous accessibility concerns related to gallery walks, ramps, and wayfinding in all case studies. It was clear that occupants did not share equal status with the art in the museum. Employee feedback and observations of their work spaces provided insights into the inner workings of art institutions. Results showed that in the process of creating additions, decision-makers mostly ignored the human aspect. New additions with daylighting and other major upgrades in visitor spaces at the Nelson-Atkins Museum and the Phoenix Art Museum did not improve working conditions for employees in back spaces. They worked in spaces that were mostly windowless, without daylight and views, and very often located in basements—in the new museum wings as well as in the older buildings. This dissertation gives an insider's perspective on the state of the occupants and how and why various decisions were made in museum addition designs. It moves the spotlight away from the usual debates on architectural forms and blockbuster exhibtions, and focuses it on museum occupants instead. By touching on key issues affecting perceptions and experiences of museum employees and visitors, this study bridges the gap between occupants and architectural design while illuminating the myriad ways in which museum additions have been conceived to date. The findings inform stakeholders in museums about the short-term and long-term impact of new additions and provide them with data for making an educated assessment of new museum addition proposals and projects in the future. Rather than attempting to be a how-to guide on museum additions, this study offers decision-makers a new approach through its findings. In its conclusions, it also offers some recommendations for future museum expansion projects. These recommendations include investing in employee work environments, conducting more internal post-occupancy studies of non-public spaces in the museum, and giving serious consideration to the effects of museum fatigue that arise from the lack of public amenities, wayfinding, and accessibility issues. Inadequate amenities such as water fountains and seating, toilets that are hard to find, and signs that are hard to read or understand can be just as upsetting for the visitor, as a gallery with a famous work of art that is temporarily closed. Museums must work harder to provide these facilities for visitors to be more comfortable and satisfied during their visit. Daylighting in art galleries also plays a significant role in the occupant experience; the key to managing daylighting strategies in museums is finding the right balance between conservation, visual comfort, accessibility, and desired ambience. Museum administrators and architects must identify all these goals from the very beginning when planning new building additions.
Issue Date:2015-09-11
Rights Information:Copyright 2015 Altaf Engineer
Date Available in IDEALS:2016-03-02
Date Deposited:2015-12

This item appears in the following Collection(s)

Item Statistics