The Cartoon Museum is a unique place that champions cartoon and comic art from across the ages. The charity-run installation aims to highlight the value of this popular art form to culture and
society – as well as provide a fun day out.
When the rent was increased on its previous premises, the museum moved to a building where space was oﬀered for free. Area won the competitive tender to develop the space from shell and core, working with architects Sam Jacob Studio to create an experience inspired by the language of cartoons and comics.
The project was required to meet several objectives. Given that the museum is a charity, costs had to be tightly controlled. Attractive presentation of the artwork was essential to engage visitors and increase footfall. Materials, particularly those used for interactive exhibits, had to be easy to clean and suitable for touching. Flexibility was crucial to the design, since the exhibition space would also be used for events and workshops.
The exterior with its new neon sign signals the museum’s bigger, brighter identity. Inside, the design is a contrast between the quiet exhibition/event space and the colourful, cheerful public areas. The fun starts in the reception and shop, with a desk in the form of a giant hello made from bright yellow MDS. Bold colours dominate, and complex joinery creates a vibrant eﬀect. The exposed services are brightly painted, part of the lively aesthetic.
The public spaces are full of drama and humour. Fun touches include human-sized cutouts of cartoon characters, and holes in walls shaped like cartoon explosions that entice visitors to peer in and explore. By contrast, the exhibition space has a calm, stripped-down industrial aesthetic that focuses attention on the framed artwork. The layout and lighting are adaptable depending on how the space is used.
The project was not without its challenges. The basement space had no fresh air or cooling, and the mechanical system had to be unobtrusively incorporated into what is essentially a white box. A lot of work was needed to ensure compliance with building regulations Part L (energy performance). However, the finished result has delivered an immeasurably improved the facility which has delighted the client.
‘The stunning computer-aided joinery installation was made possible by carrying out a 3D live survey which provided the exact dimensions of the space. The result is complex and clever, a key feature of the design.’
- Chris Stewart, Project Director, Area