Museum Architecture: Purpose, Types, and Design

Museum Architecture: Purpose, Types, and Design

Access Doors and Panels on 2nd Mar 2022

Museum Architecture: Purpose, Types, and Design

Any travel itinerary is not complete without a trip to the local museum. It is a structure that houses and displays art collections, ancient artifacts, and other historical memorabilia. Museums play a significant role in cultural preservation by enabling us to preserve history and hand it down to future generations.

Not only do museums serve the general public, but they also reciprocate the needs of researchers, educators, and experts in various fields. There are also instances where museums are built to accommodate a specific collection.

Here are some of the most common types of museums:

  • Art museum
  • Natural History museums
  • Architecture museums
  • Science museums
  • War and History Museums
  • Children's museums
  • Archeology museums

In addition to viewing art and historical pieces, many people also come to museums to appreciate their unique and stunning architecture. Due to its purpose, the design principle and museum architecture standards vary from typical construction projects such as buildings and warehouses. Building museums require very specific depending on the type of collection exhibited.

Museum Planning

Since museums vary in size and purpose, it is critical to narrow down the specific features, amenities, design, and context during the conceptualization phase. Researching about museum architecture thesis and museum architecture case studies can shed light on the complexity of museum design.

More prominent museums need to employ a sizeable staff who can curate, manage, and conserve the exhibit, aside from the admin and maintenance personnel. As such, smaller museums would only require a handful of employees to oversee their daily operations.

When it comes to museum architecture, the first impression lasts. Therefore, it is ideal to prioritize the entrance hall and install directional signages and other information leading to the exhibit. Understanding its primary purpose and the layout of the collection will determine space circulation and how the visitors will view or interact with the display.

Furthermore, most museum architecture concepts incorporate the use of multiple kinds of spaces, such as:

  • Public display areas
  • Storage for exhibits not currently on display
  • Conservation area
  • Data collection
  • Loading/unloading
  • Packing/unpacking
  • Workshop
  • Staff facilities
  • Lobby/reception
  • Sales/shop
  • Cafe
  • Public restroom facilities
  • Event spaces
  • Teaching rooms

Understanding the correlation between these spaces is crucial due to the significance and value of the collection. The museum architecture firm must assess how each functionality can benefit one another and how the public and staff will navigate between these areas.

Museum Design Guidelines

Due to exhibit variations, there is no current building or design standard for architectural museums. However, most of the design requirements come from the clients and, of course, the type of the museum. Many things go into creating and designing these public facilities, but these are the essential guidelines when designing a museum.


The national museum of architecture must be accessible to all. As a center for learning, the facility must be open to people from different backgrounds and social statuses. The visitors should easily navigate the building using the same path, regardless of whether they have special needs or otherwise.

Adhering to standard safety codes and access requirements is imperative so that all visitors will be treated equally. However, the museum management can always go beyond their duty and pursue an exclusive design layout to enhance their access services further.


Since most museums deal with historical artifacts, incorporating the proper timeline into the building's walkway design ensures that visitors learn about history chronologically.

In addition, signages and a guiding staff are also feasible options to successfully guide each guest so that they can fully immerse themselves and fully experience the museum's collection and architecture. The designer can create a linear path circulation, or it could be in a loop, where the visitor is led through the exhibit and ends back at the entrance hall.


After identifying the museum's purpose, designers must determine how the general public would interact with the collection. Can the visitors touch the display or enclose the artifacts inside a glass case?

Technological breakthroughs in visualization can significantly improve the building's learning and ambiance. Many galleries enforce a strict no-touch policy, but they can install video screens that could show the history or fundamental facts of a particular art piece or artifact.

Several mediums can help museums bring back to life, including:

  • Video and Sound
  • Theatre
  • Static objects
  • Tactile objects
  • Interactive computer
  • Animatronics
  • Reconstruction
  • Non-touch Interactives
  • Laser Projection
  • Augmented and Virtual Reality

Identifying how the audience can fully engage in the exhibit without touching them requires technology and creativity. Make enough room between or around the displays, so everyone learns and has an immersive experience inside the museum of architecture and design.


Lighting up a museum is a complex task due to some factors. It plays a vital role in highlighting each display, but most museums prefer artificial lighting due to the sensitivity of some items or paintings.

Moreover, lighting also sets up the mood and the ambiance for each guest as they walk through the collection. Changes in illumination spark interest, but it is crucial to gradually do this as a sudden light burst may cause discomfort.


Due to preservation efforts, most museum designs disregard energy efficiency. However, due to the growing adversity of global warming, new design concepts are being implemented that focuses on sustainability. Here are some tips for building healthy and sustainable management in every museum:

  • Reduce energy consumption
  • Employ the use of environmental management systems
  • Promote cultural production
  • Raise public awareness regarding ecological responsibility
  • Advocate reusing and recycling of materials

Most displays need to be placed away from direct sunlight. The architect can divert the idea of natural lighting in other building areas. They can also suggest having a roof garden to improve thermal insulation, reducing energy consumption.


Security is an essential component in every building, but the level of security in museums is exceptionally higher. Many factors have to be considered, but ultimately the safety of the guests, staff, and the collection needs to be a paramount design consideration.

The security manager can reduce the entry and exit points in the museum to closely monitor food traffic. A considerable amount of security personnel will suffice during the day, but security must be heightened at night. They also need to set up a checkpoint and bag inspection unit at the entrance and install proper security access doors to protect against theft, vandalism, or accidental damage.


Museums are an essential part of the community due to their knowledge. Designing a museum is no simple task, but they are critical in preserving our history as a whole and introducing new technologies and sustainable practices.

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2nd Mar 2022 Access Doors and Panels