Universal Design Studio has completed the design of the ‘Magnificent Maps’ exhibition at the British Library.
The exhibition looks at maps within a social, political and historical context rather than maps as geographical or navigational tools. The maps, many of which are extremely rare and are being exhibited for the first time, are presented to the visitor within a series of symbolic architectural constructs.
Working closely with the curators at the British Library, Universal Design Studio has created a series of notional galleries, chambers and public spaces within the exhibition hall. The implied historical setting for each ‘chapter’ in the exhibition is designed to support a series of curatorial narrative ‘themes’. These themes are: maps as symbols of power and status, maps as art and maps as tools of propaganda and indoctrination.
The visitor begins their journey by walking through a hierarchical series of four palace rooms of decreasing scale and volume. Beginning with the ‘Privy Gallery,’ a grand public space representing ideas of stately propaganda. The visitor then passes through the ‘Audience Chamber’ depicting power and patriotism, the ‘Bed Chamber’ (spiritual and religious) and finally to the ‘Cabinet Of Curiosities’ (knowledge and connoisseurship).
Exhibition threshold view
The exhibition rooms are interlinked by a common graphic ‘threshold’ structure, which frames each doorway to the next viewing space. This concept serves to introduce the visitor to each space with text and supporting imagery within the entrance.
This disciplined approach to text with the exhibition means that explanations and introductions are restricted to the entrances, or ‘thresholds’ of each space, allowing visitors an unpunctuated appreciation of the displays, room to room, and a more fluid journey through the exhibition
Appreciating the visual density of detail in many of the maps on show, Universal Design Studio set out to create a clean, directional and legible exhibition framework. Architecture is hinted at rather than faithfully recreated using canvas walls, suspended vaulted ceilings and graphic floors.