This paper considers the spatial development of municipal art galleries in relation to changes in society and technology. These building can become a focus for the local communities and the area in which they are situated. Their internal and external spaces have evolved to address a multitude of requirements. Richard Hill suggests that a commercial building functions on two levels, that of the user, to whom it is familiar, the person who has a working relationship with the architecture as a structure which must function on a permanent and practical level and that of the visitor who views the building from a more aesthetic standpoint; a very casual and fleeting acquaintance with the architecture. [i]  Art galleries need to function on many levels. They have the permanent worker and the casual visitor, but they also cater for the regular visitor who will develop their own relationship with the spaces, and the artist installing a temporary exhibition. They need to be adaptable to meet the exhibition demands that we place on their spaces which are no longer simply used to look at pictures on a wall or sculpture on a plinth. The varied and ever expanding disciplines of art, design and visual media place different expectations and functions on the areas that they occupy and have a direct effect on the way that the assorted users, permanent and transient, utilize the spaces within. So how have these building developed to try to create spaces that are all things to all people?                                                                                                                      
The background research traces the history of these buildings from the mid 19th century. Prior to this, collections were generally owned by royalty and the bourgeoisie, with access restricted to selected guests and those whom the owners wished to impress.
The success of the 1851 Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace  prompted the establishment of the world’s first museum for contemporary art and design, the “Museum for Manufacturers”, later to become the “Victoria and Albert Museum”. It moved to its present site in 1857, in a building known as the Brompton Boilers, with the School of Design, established 20 years earlier, housed in the same building. It is worth remembering that galleries exhibited the work of artists and sculptors; whilst ceramics, glass, metalwork etc were considered craft and could generally only exhibit at ‘trade fairs’ until the 1890’s. The South Kensington Museum was the first museum to have a tea room, a feature that would ignite controversy over 100 years later when an advertising campaign designed to attract more visitors promoted the museum as a café with “art on the side”. [ii] In 1858 Henry Cole’s late night openings, using the innovation of gas lighting, made the exhibits available to the working classes outside of their working hours. The current building dates from 1899 and quickly gained world renown.
Throughout this period this genre of architecture tended to follow a prescribed pattern, classical and imposing with columns and pediments based on the Roman Basilicas, an association to government and law, and Greek temples and Italian Renaissance churches with their association to culture and art[iii]. Bennett comments on the interior structures of these buildings:
"Their internal architecture instituted a new set of relations between space and vision in which the public could not only see the exhibits arranged for its inspection but could, at the same time, see and be seen by itself, thus placing an architectural restraint on any insolent tendency to rowdiness." [iv]
He goes on to compare them to reform institutions and the newly introduced department stores with their walkways, elevated balconies and directed promenades. This was a way to regulate behaviour, offering an alternative to the gin palaces, ale houses and fairs, viewed by the governments of the day as breeding grounds for revolution and undesirable behaviour; in effect this was regulation controlled space. Leahycomments that in traditional style museums the “flow of rooms carried visitors – attentive or boarded – in a single direction on a horizontal plane  …… and there was no escape for the visitor who was physically incorporated within the spatio-temporal logic of the display.” [v]
In the late 1920’s the rise of the professional curator and their subsequent increasing power influenced the design of these buildings. McClellan[vi] refers to this as the “Machine Age” of museum architecture. It gave rise to buildings that were comparatively unadorned, with interiors that featured large, white, cavernous spaces. Curators demanded buildings that would not distract from the exhibits, buildings that concentrated on facilities for staff and exhibits with functional, informal visitor circulation; but this new solution brought about new problems, Benjamin Gilman an early exponent of this style of spatial organization conceded that the large “oversized and overcrowded galleries”[vii] caused museum fatigue and he invented a tool to combat this, the Skiascope, which when used focused the viewers attention onto individual exhibits, reducing distractions.      
This focused the viewer onto individual works and reduced glare from the lighting. The culmination of this style is represented by The Museum of Modern Art in New York 1939 by Godwin and Stone. The scale of this building was still monumental, the consensus being that buildings that had impressive scale nurtured civic pride. It is internally that this building established a new pattern in its utilisation of space. The ground floor shop windows allow the public to have visual access to the space within and the amenities provided. The galleries on the second and third floors shaped many future museum and gallery spaces. Large areas with track lighting and moveable walls that could be arranged to accommodate a variety of exhibits and create a flexible, informal public space with curatorial flexibility. Photographs of the early exhibitions have a timeless quality that make the layout look like they could have been taken this week. However contemporary commentaries indicate that at this time the museum even in this form was still viewed as a high art establishment, with the spaces arranged for intense viewing on an individual level.
Post War, Frank Lloyd Wrights Guggenheim Museum in New York, opened in 1959. The now famous curving ramps that lead the visitors down through the exhibition space were a solution to the aim to create “a sense of community through the shared experience of space and art”. The ramp is a development of the earlier devices; you are always visible to and observed by others. A Gallop Poll completed one year after opening indicated that 40% of visitors came just to see the building and 5% just to see the collections. [viii] This started a trend that the Guggenheim Foundation would develop in later years, where the architecture becomes an exhibit itself in.
The concept of “Universal Space” and “the clean slate” was addressed by Mies van der Rohe in the 1968 New National Gallery in Berlin. This glass and steel structure sits on a raised plinth, in isolation, on a plaza above the city. It has transparency; the internal and external space is undivided and becomes universal to encourage accessibility. It is unencumbered by decoration, walls and architectural devices. Whilst simplicity may appear to be the solution, it was not without its problems. McClellan comments that “The scale and setting doomed the building as a space for art”.[ix] The large open plan ground floor, designed for temporary exhibitions compromised how the works were displayed. There were considerations of light damage, so dividing display panels were installed which could be arranged according to the curator’s wishes. The size of the area overwhelmed many exhibits as evidenced in comments made by William Rubin describing the Mondrian exhibition in 1968 as looking like “linoleum samples at a trade fair”. [x]
In 1977 The Pompidou Centre by Renzo Piano and Richard Rodgers was opened to the public. The external services give flexibility to the internal spaces whilst maintaining ‘shop window’ transparency at plaza level. Internally it is designed for a number of activities that the visitor can choose from rather than just viewing art. This is described by Gielbelhausen as a “Cultural Factory”. [xi] The scale of the building and the colours used on the exterior are in sharp contrast to its surroundings and also to the museum tradition. This links to the more recent innovation of using sensory elements to engage a diverse range of visitors. Gielbelhausen comments that these elements “responded to a desire to enliven the city and reconfigure it as a market place and a spectacle”. [xii] In an interview with Peter Jenkins, the original director of the New Art Gallery at Walsall, he stressed the importance of the space surrounding these buildings citing the plaza outside of the Pompidou Centre and relating this to the position of the New Art Gallery, reinforcing the importance of its position within the space of the city and the Square in front of it.
In 1997 The Guggenheim Bilbao designed by Frank Gehry opened on the waterfront of the former shipbuilding town. It has become an icon of museum architecture with over 1,360,000 visitors in the first year. Like New York many visitors go to see the just the building, it is referred to as one of the “Foremost architectural pilgrimages of the century”. [xiii] The building has generated tourism and has been key to the regeneration of this run down industrial area and continues to attract visitors and prestigious exhibitions to its spaces. The innovative structure had a mixed response as illustrated by these quotes. The impact of this landmark building was universally acclaimed as the ‘Bilbao Effect’. Bilbao continues to attract visitors and prestigious exhibitions but is also a part of a brand.
Several of the individuals that I have interviewed in the course of this research have commented that the building as a spectacle is unnecessary; one went as far as to say that the Guggenheim is responsible for many unsuccessful buildings where the design has been inappropriate to the area of situation and alienating to the local community. For smaller collections large vaulted internal spaces are can also be cavernous and alienating.
The Public the new arts centre for West Bromwich designed by Will Alsop has had a turbulent history, including escalating costs, and technical problems in an area desperate for development and investment. The idea for a permanent structure where the visitor would engage with the work and “play an active role in its creation”, [xiv] was conceived by Sylvia King who had run the Jubilee Arts Project in the area from a bus since 1974. Started in 2003 and finally opened in 2009 the building is 100 m long and four storeys high. The ground floor level is fully glazed. The upper floors are clad in back aluminium with irregular shaped pink framed windows that have been described as “Jelly bean” and “goldfish bowls”.  On one side of the building are two mirror finished dramatic stainless steel structures which accommodate the utilities. Entry is gained on either side of the building through opposing sliding doors that are rather alienating with their solid appearance and ‘hissing’ action. The conventional floor plan at the southern end of the building accommodates offices and a 250 seated theatre/performance area. The remaining and majority of internal space is very unconventional. On the top floor the ‘Lilly pad’ platform areas are linked by bridges. Originally intended as offices for ‘Jubilee Arts’ they are now available for commercial let, but the design of these spaces raises issues of privacy and security. Visitors have access from the third floor down via a 350m ramp that winds its way through the interior spaces and interactive displays.
The Public’s interior offers space but the layout compromises its use. Many features and their appearance are comparable to the fairground or amusement park, Bennett highlights the historical similarities between exhibitions, museums and the fairs.  The gallery is part of the regeneration plan for the area. Macleod states:
"As museums have come to be consciously recognized as drivers for social and economic regeneration, the architecture of the museum has developed from its traditional forms into often-spectacular one-off statements and architectural visions." [xv]
But does a project that has run so severely over budget in an area desperate for investment cause a negative response to funding for arts spaces?
Tate Modern, in the Sir Giles Gilbert Scott power station at Bankside, is an adaptive re-use by the architects Hertzog and De Meuron between 1991 and 2001. The Turbine Hall, the vast space that formerly housed the generating machinery, has become a social space as well as the exhibition area for the annual Unilever commissions. The architectural scale of the area is a key element and requires interpretation as a display space. This was highlighted by Tate Modern's director, Vicente Todolí:
"When we select the artists we don’t select them because of their message. We select them because of their past work and how they might deal with the space." [xvi]
The Turbine Hall has become a meeting place, relaxation area and an area of transit; Tate modern refers to it as a “street”. This creation of social space that people can use for their own purposes is a positive aspect of the building’s design. Minton comments on the effect of control measures in public spaces using the example of CCTV and Drones in Liverpool One, stating that they have “removed all the imagination and creativity from city life”. This increases the physical value of spaces such as the Turbine Hall where people can loiter at their leisure regardless of whether they visit the art exhibitions or not. Minton draws attention to recent research carried out by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation which stressed the importance of Spaces where it is possible to “do nothing”.[xvii]
Another example of reuse, but on a smaller scale is the Ikon Gallery at Brindley Place, Birmingham.  It was originally conceived by Angus Skene and four artists from the Birmingham School of Art, opening in a glass Kiosk in the Bull Ring shopping centre in 1965, which exposed passers-by to art in a passive way making it familiar in the urban context.
The gallery had a variety of venues as visitor numbers increased. The Ikon’s current home is the Oozells Street School building 1878 designed by Chamberlain and Martin. Local people have an affinity with the building and its spaces through longevity of use. The architects for the conversion were Levitt Bernstein who preserved and repaired the original external features. The public lift and stairwell added to the outside of the building were built in glass to preserve the original form. A steel frame inserted into the building shell created 440 sq m of gallery space, but this new internal structure and layout retained many original attributes and as such preserved the identity of the spaces so familiar to the locals. A stated objective is to “build a meaningful relationship with audiences to enable visitors to engage with, discuss and reflect on contemporary art”. One aim of the education programs is the encouragement of sustained use of gallery space by children. The Ikon exhibitions are temporary with no permanent collection held; this has allowed flexibility in the variety of spaces used as a home by the Ikon. In an interview with a Levitt Bernstein employee he explained that the original plans before they took over the project made no allowance for a public space external to the building. This would have immersed the building in the surrounding new builds. The provision of the public square in front of the building focuses the public attention on the gallery and provides an area of public interaction. The Architects recognized the value of this space to the community and also to the gallery, placing the café facing onto this area encouraging people in and generating income.
Throughout the twentieth century cafes and shops have become an essential element in the design of these buildings. This is partly the result of the museums need to raise capital for self-funding but also demand created by our consumer driven society. Sales are considered so important that when the original proposals for Tate Modern were being considered a study was undertaken to establish the average spend per visitor to assess the income that could be generated.
The continuing commitment to educational space is illustrated by the investment at the V & A in The Sackler Centre where two floors of the Henry Cole wing have been remodelled by London based company ‘Softroom’ to provide workshops, studios, a gallery, lecture rooms and auditorium. The internal public spaces of the Sackler Centre are in stark contrast to the rest of the V & A in terms of style and materials used, with glass, steel and polished concrete, but the tradition of seeing and being seen continues with glass walls being used to divide the studios spaces from the general public spaces, wide staircases that angle up allowing observation and a cantilevered balcony. This new area has been inserted into the original building, behind the façade and provides a space that is integral to the main museum but separate in its style.
The Wolverhampton Art Gallery (1883-85) is an example of a traditional purpose built civic style building. In 2007 it opened the 6.7 million pound Pop Art Gallery a modern extension built to display the Pop Art collection, which is acknowledged as the best of its kind outside London. The site was limited and awkward in shape. The solution that the architects Purcell Miller Tritton provided was a contemporary angular building in materials sympathetic with those of the neighbouring Victorian School of Art building. The exterior is clad in terracotta and the windows reflect their surroundings, enhancing the effect of merging urban space. The interior is clean lined and minimal, with dedicated areas and alcoves used for exhibitions and interactive pieces. They also allow people a private space in a public area.
The ground floor houses the Pop Art Collection. The upper gallery shows temporary exhibitions from both home and abroad. The café area was relocated and updated and has become a space used as a popular retreat for local employees on lunch breaks as well as gallery visitors. It also overlooks the old and the new galleries linking the spaces. The Pop Art gallery entrance area is double height with glass roof lights. The cantilevered stairs are illuminated on the underside and a bridge links the upper levels of the old and new galleries, in the style of the traditional gallery and museum. Use of natural top lighting and the bridge references Tate Modern, albeit reduced in scale. Leahy draws attention to the importance of consideration of the materials used to link spaces giving the example of the glass bridge in Manchester Art Gallery which links the 19th century gallery to the 21st century extension which many visitors experienced as a barrier rather than a link, due to the effects of vertigo.
A successful local new build is The New Art Gallery, Walsall designed by the architects Caruso St John. Their concept was a ‘big house’ with irregular windows. Its structure is a mix of institute and pre-cast concrete shell clad in terracotta. Its height mirrors the church at the other end of the town. [xviii] The building in Gallery Square is next to the recently created canal basin, and adjacent to the shopping centre. Its original director attributed much of its early success to the space that it occupied as it made it accessible to locals in their every day routine as well as to other visitors. The initial and ongoing consultation process was innovative in its inclusivity of gallery staff and local people. This involvement continued through public consultation and site visits throughout the build, making local people feel part of the project and associated with the architectural spaces. The entrance and foyer are cantilevered with a large expanse of glass uniting the inside to the outside with the café and shop located nearby. Floors 1 and 2 were specifically designed for the permanent Garman Ryan Collection with domestic scaled intimate spaces in sharp contrast to the 6m high walls in the temporary exhibition space on floor 3. Leahy refers to the Garman Rhyan collection as being “displayed in a house within a house”. [xix] This may be the reason why this intimate space with its familiar scale is regularly frequented by families and why the space is considered accessible to a diverse range of people with whom it has a resonance.
The top floor originally had a restaurant area. This type of space with panoramic views is acknowledged by many commentators as being a feature of numerous buildings for or associated with exhibition as many commentators acknowledge and serve to unite the gallery space with that of the town.
Patrick Geddes suggested the idea of the city as a museum in itself with a central tower from where history could be observed as an evolving entity; this is akin to Corbusier’s theory of deconstruction of the museum. [xx]
In conclusion, the success of a building may take some time to gauge accurately; it needs time to settle into its environment; short term visitor figures are no mark of success, but are one of the main references used to judge the viability of a building, a statistic easy to analyze in our commerce driven society. A recent Culture Show on the BBC stressed the need, in the light of the current financial cuts, to evaluate more than monetary considerations. Figures suggest that the free admission introduced in the 90’s sparked a resurgence in the consumption of art and the production of art. But, these spaces have a value other than the materialistic, as a refuge from life, an area of contemplations where you can linger, a social area and of course as spaces that house inspirational works of art. The changing face of art in the 20th century has placed new demands on the spaces, requiring different types of display and facilities. Gallery and museum projects have become an intrinsic part of successful regeneration and their commissions’ status symbols for the architects concerned. Macleod suggests that:
"Such buildings may work very well as icons and cultural landmarks without achieving the levels of accessibility, usability and relevance for both visitors and staff, promised during their conception." [xxi]
Larger municipal galleries have always been comparatively costly to construct. The very space that they occupy in our towns and cities is expensive real estate. The presence of the obligatory shops and cafes within these buildings are facilities that we the public have come to expect and they do generate cash which helps to secure the buildings continued existence. The life of these spaces is far more complexed than the user/visitor model expressed by Hill for a commercial building. Longevity of intended use is an indicator of a buildings success indicating form fit for function and rewarding the initial investment. Sudjec states “the quality of the architecture will last much longer than the burden of the cost.” [xxii]
Contemporary society is often fragmented and insular as individuals rely increasingly on technological methods of communication. Much of our former public space is now privately controlled. Any space that encourages public interaction is a valuable resource. As Duncan surmises:
"Exhibitions in art museums do not themselves change the world. Nor should they have to. But as a form of public space, they constitute an arena in which a community may test, examine, and imaginatively live both older truths and possibilities for new ones……….Above all, they are spaces in which communities can work out the values that identify them as communities. Whatever their limitations, however large or small, and however peripheral they seem, art museum space is space worth fighting for." [xxiii]
[i] Richard Hill, Designs and their Consequenes (USA: Yale University Press, 1999), pp.179-181.
[ii] James Cuno, Whose Muse: Art Museums and the Public Trust (New Jersey: Princeton university Press, 2004), p. 167.
[iii] Mimi Zeiger, New Museum Architecture: Innovative Buildings from Around the World. (London: Thames & Hudson, 2005), p. 9.
[iv] Tony Bennett, The Birth of the Museum, (London: Routledge, 1995), pp. 100-101.
[v] Helen Rees Leahy, ‘Producing a Public for Art: Gallery Space in the Twenty-First Century,’ in Susan Macleod (ed.), Reshaping Museum Space (London: Routledge, 2005), pp. 108-117.
[vi] Andrew McClellan, The Art Museum: from Boullee to Bilbao (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2008), p. 71-77.
[vii] Ibid.
[viii] Julie V. Iovine, Guggenheim New York. (New Jersey: Princeton Architectural Press, 1999), p. 4-5.
[ix] Andrew McClellan, The Art Museum From Boullee to Bilbao (USA: University of California Press, 2008) p. 82
[x] William Rubin, ‘When Museums Overpower Their Own Art’ New York Times, April 12, 1987, H31 in Andrew McClellan, The Art Museum From Boullee to Bilbao (USA: University of California Press, 2008), p. 83
[xi] Michaela Giebelhausen, The Architecture of the Museum: Symbolic Structures, Urban Contexts (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003), p. 6.
[xii] Ibid.
[xiii] Julie V. Iovine,Guggenheim Bilbao. (New Jersey: Princeton Architectural Press, 1999), p. 5.
[xiv] Ellis Woodman, ‘The Public Liability of West Bromwich’s The Public,’http://The public liability of West Bromwich’s The Public - Building Design.htm/ Accessed 21/09/09; last viewed on 04 July 2008.
[xv] Susan Macleod, “Introduction,” inMacleod (ed.) Reshaping Museum Space, p. 2.
[xvi] Mark Brown, ‘Tate Modern puts void in Turbine Hall,’ Accessed 20/12/09; last viewed on 12 October 2009.
[xvii] Anna Minton, Ground Control; fear and happiness in the twenty-first century city. (London: Penguin Books, 2009) p.199.
[xviii] Claire Mcdade, Building in the Audience: Audience Development and the Construction of The New Art Gallery Walsall. (Walsall: The new Art Gallery Walsall, 2002).
[xix] Leahy, Producing a Public for Art, pp. 108-117.
[xx] Anthony Vidler, ‘The Space of History: Modern Museums from Patric Geddes to Le Corbusier,’ inGiebelhausen (ed.), The Architecture of the Museum, pp. 160-182.
[xxi] Susan Macleod, ‘Rethinking Museum Architecture: Towards a Site-Specific History of Production and Us,’ inMacleod (ed.), Reshaping museum space, p. 10.
[xxii] Deyan Sudjic, The Edifice Complex (London: Penguin Books, 2006), p. 172. - _ednref23 [xxiii] Carol Duncan, Civilizing Rituals: Inside Public Art Museums (London: Routledge, 1995), p. 133.