Director Pippa Nissen, Senior Associate Marie-Lise Oulmont and Associates Andrea Hickey and Kate Coghlan of Nissen Richards Studio are leading a new postgraduate teaching unit at London Metropolitan University. The unit challenged students to design a ‘Museum for Now’. Here is one of the responses to that challenge.

Stemming from Nissen Richards’ work in architecture, exhibitions and story-telling, the unit has questioned how we can approach architecture predominantly from the point of view of experience in the form of ‘A Museum For Now’. I have focused this year on the theme of celebration and my museum, The Museum of Festivals, integrates existing on site circulation routes with the Victorian arcade typology in order to ground the permanent building within Millfields Park.

Festivals are a large part of the cultural fabric all over the world, bringing people together to celebrate culture, religion and the arts. With regards to establishing a museum for now, the consequences  of the pandemic have been drawn upon as traditional celebrations of all scales have been cancelled which prior to 2020 have taken place year on year. In parallel, the physical presence of a museum in society today has been put into question. Over the past year, museums as well as festivals have had to convert fully to only entertaining online audiences. The design process has reflected on these changes and focuses predominantly on the reassessment on the form, purpose and implications festivals and museums have on society and the wider environment.

As a result, The Museum of Festivals exhibits the relationships between festival, city and society through the permanent collections and the flexible temporary studios which will be ever changing and curated by local communities. Mapping the existing routes showed that the park is both a destination and a place for passing through which is similar to the Victorian shopping arcades -  “An invention of industrial luxury, glass-roofed corridors extending through whole blocks of buildings … the arcade is a city, a world in miniature” - Arcades Project, Walter Benjamin. Using the Milan arcade as a starting point for the plan has ensured a feel of grandeur and spectacle as well as including a permeability between interior and exterior. As a whole and individually, the festival typologies emerge which helps insert the building organically into the landscape.