Re-designing the Lady Lever's south end

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Mood board for the Chinese collection room Mood board for the Chinese collection room Our Design team are working hard behind the scenes to bring together ideas from curators and feedback from you (our visitors!) to create fantastic designs for the new 'south end' galleries at the Lady Lever. The galleries will be brought back to their original architectural design and more than 1,500 items of fine and decorative art will be redisplayed.  I asked Simon from our Design team to tell me more about what is involved in redesigning spaces in such a culturally important building...

Where do you start when you're looking for inspiration to redesign a gallery space?

"Inspiration comes from all sorts of different things. For the redesign of the Lady Lever Art Gallery's 'south end', we started by thinking about the key messages and stories that we needed to bring out in the space. We also thought about our visitors and their needs and expectations. All of these ideas and plans were brought  together into a concept brief, to guide the design process. More obvious inspiration comes from the collections, the architecture and the history of the building.  The collections, including the Wedgwood and Chinese ceramics as well as the Napoleon furniture, offer interesting colour palettes and strong decorative pattern. Stories of how and why the collections were acquired, the manufacturing process and how the objects were originally displayed, all help stimulate thinking and paint a picture of who Lever was and why he built his gallery. The time period dealt with within the displays is fairly easy to place, so contemporary examples of interiors and other relevant exhibitions can be inspiring either by finding images or visiting different places. Simon speaks to visitors about the plans for the gallery. Simon speaks to visitors about the plans for the gallery. As well as the more obvious inspirational clues, practical considerations are just as important. The strong architectural elements and symmetry of the gallery help inform the display structure and layout. Different views through doorways and looking across the galleries, dictate where and how objects potentially could be displayed. Thinking about how visitors will move through the different galleries is also important.  This all helps as a starting point for the design process and the pulling together of mood boards and visuals."

In the Chinese collections mood board, you use words like 'bohemian', 'fun' and 'exotic' - how did you decide on these ideas for this space?

"The words used on the mood boards came out of discussions with our curatorial and education teams. Each contributed words which were relevant to them - either from the collections they look after, the work they do or from feedback from our visitors. For example, our education team discovered that families who visit the gallery would like the space to feel more welcoming, so they suggested that 'fun' was an important element to include. Through these discussions the words were refined to come up with a list which best reflected the direction the project needed to develop."

How does it feel when you finally see the designs 'in the flesh' in the gallery?

"The development from mood boards through to finished galleries is always interesting, exciting and quite demanding! There is an immense feeling of relief after producing something to meet everyone's expectations, within budget and on time. It is very gratifying to see a gallery looking like a design you produced two years before, with happy, interested visitors wandering around it."

We need your support

If you would like to contribute to the project and help us to restore these fantastic galleries, please visit our website to find out how you can support us. Mood board for the Napoleon room. Mood board for the Napoleon room.