Public realm in museums – redeveloping underused land to create fantastic open spaces for visitors

By Adrian Murphy

Open air spaces and public realm in museums provide that little extra to visitors, offering them a space to relax and reflect and dictate the pace of their journey. More and more these days we are seeing new museum projects incorporate some element of public realm in their developments and in doing so provide a better visitor experience

Here Advisor focuses on three case studies all of which have taken neglected land (one of which is in the planning stages) and transformed it into inspirational public spaces that are free to use by visitors. We talk to the V&A’s deputy director Tim Reeve about the museum’s Exhibition Road Quarter, which will be revealed at the end of June and open up a disused part of the building into a magnificent new entrance. “There is something really generous about well-designed public realm and public spaces, especially open air spaces, there is a freedom about them, it’s not transactional space,” he says.

We look at how York Art Gallery created a new Edible Wood and Artists’ Garden as part of its £8m redevelopment in 2015 by taking neglected land at the rear of the gallery and bringing it into public use. Not far away in Wakefield we focus on the Hepworth Wakefield’s ambitious plans to develop a strip of unloved greenery and turn it into a Riverside Gallery Garden, the potential of which is summed up perfectly by its designer, gardener Tom Stuart-Smith: “I truly believe in the community and health benefits that gardens can bring and I am particularly excited by the socially transformative opportunities of this project.”