10 October 2007

Mediation and Visitable Storage at the Louvre-Lens

To mediate a visitor’s experience of an artwork, one first must address what curatorial “voice” the visitor will hear. The mediation programme (les actions de mediations) is a new core vision for the Louvre-Lens. Our design for mediation spaces encourages a diversity of formats, spaces and means of access – both virtual and real, in sound and light, projected or to touch, reinforced for those that are impaired, isolated away from the art or directly overlapping with the art itself – to provide multiple choices, multiple voices for the museum visitor. We have designed a series of variable mediation nodes, which are dispersed throughout the galleries, in addition to larger more social mediation rooms. They form a network of interactive spaces, at times separate from the gallery flow, at times like a kiosk at the crossroads of flux, which opens and expands to allow a group of visitors to view. Literally, the kiosks are active nodes that open, to reveal an artwork in an adjacent gallery, framed by the very surface that was used for projection. At other times, mediation takes the form of an interactive projection on or within a casework that renders visible, the draft pencil line under a final oil work; or a “blue conservation light” that makes visible the restoration in ancient stonewares – these, coupled with social rest spaces, access to printed material and signage – create the network of voices that define the visitor’s mediated experience.

Viewable and Visitable Storage
To understand the breath of the Louvre collection, it is important to the visitor to be able to understand the dual role of the institution in the first place: to both preserve and present art that it has inherited, amassed and collected. The origin of the collections – from royal patronage, to spoils of war – is one voice in the narrative of the Louvre collection. The sheer quantity of works, and the stringent conservation requirements – protection from harmful uv light, stable humidity and minimal handling – vary for each artifact type, material or period of execution, and may provide an amazing narrative to the scholar and young visitor alike.
We have developed several designs for viewable storage spaces, which meet the conservation requirements, while providing more direct visitor access to a core sampling of the Louvre’s collection.
These would take the form of large glass enclosed volumes, dedicated to one specific art material with matching relatively humidity needs and support systems. These volumes, with their moveable support partitions, can be “curated”, to allow for fortuitous comparisons of material, when seen on their moveable storage panels. With interactive display and projections, a narrative can be directly “overlaid” on these glass volumes, mediating and educating the visitor on a specific art material. These variable storage cabinets, located predominately within the publicly accessible conservation area, are also conceived to be located at mediation spaces off the direct flux of the galleries, adding a new layer to the museum experience. Other forms of variable storage, are seen as glass shelving compartments – similar to compact library storage that are compressed to access only two opposite facing sides – are proposed in some transition gallery spaces. These can be “curated” by limiting which shelving unit is viewable, while keeping the other artifacts away from light.
The large art storage facility, directly linked to the delivery and conservation labs, is found on the lower level, viewed from the main reception hall via an immense oculus in the floor, 16 meter in diameter. The visitor on first entering the museum is afforded views into the core of the museum facility, through the glass walls of the mediateque, to the viewable storage areas. The glass walls of the public spaces that define the viewable storage are electrified privacy glass that allows them to be rendered opaque – for conservation reasons.
Thus, at will, the museum can expose their core holding collection, or the works in transit to the Louvre-Lens, to the general public. The museum thus reconciles protection and presentation by placing this unique facility at the core of the public spaces.

©Tim Culbert Architect
for Equipe Sanaa (winning joint-venture team for the Louvre satellite competition 2005 (Sanaa + Imrey Culbert + Mosbach) Photo credit: TCulbert; Design image credit: Imrey Culbert