When Art Processors undertook exhibition design and wayfinding at Bunjil Place Gallery for the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ prestigious Archibald Prize, clarity and cohesion were at the heart of our thinking.
Creating a compelling visitor journey around a purpose-built gallery is one thing. But what if the exhibition space is just one part of a multi-purpose precinct? How do you manage the multitude of possible routes at the same time as fluctuating visitor numbers? And do all that without tech?
This wayfinding conundrum was a key challenge as we supported Bunjil Place in hosting the first stop for this year’s national tour of the Archibald Prize. The 52 selected entries are on display at Narre Warren’s Bunjil Place, which houses a mix of facilities, including an outdoor community plaza, theatre, library, and the City of Casey Customer Service Centre.
"It’s not a straightforward journey, especially as the entrance is on the opposite side of the building to the gallery," explains Cassandra Cox, Senior Visual Designer at Art Processors. Wayfinding was no simpler for people familiar with the site, believes Senior Exhibition Designer, Jax Plumley. "This is a full building takeover!" he says. "What might have been a council chamber is now a retail spot, or high tea venue. We’re re-educating local people at the same time as helping new visitors."
Our second challenge was how to design the exhibition to ensure visitors see each piece as part of the larger story of contemporary art. As the walls are not in a traditional gallery layout, and artworks vary in size from fit-in-the-palm-of-your-hand to 3 metres by 2 metres, exhibition design was, "a case of completing a complex puzzle," says Jax.
Right this way
Jax believes our approach to both these challenges was unusual for Art Processors as, "we didn’t use technology, which is what we are typically known for."
Instead, the team took a strategic step back. For exhibition design, the key to creating moments of reflection was, "working out how to thematically display the artworks so that guides can create moments along the tour," says Jax. "It was important to create a seamless visitor flow with key sightlines and areas to gather in groups."
For wayfinding, we thought really carefully about how to help visitors find their way. "We went into granular detail," reveals Cassandra, "examining every touchpoint—right back from when they see the show’s digital marketing or buy tickets online, to when they arrive in a potentially crowded foyer." We studied current visitor flow, mapped out upcoming events, analysed data from previous Archibald Prizes, found out how staff like to work and made contingency plans for if new COVID rules are announced.
With all this in mind, we designed a wayfinding strategy suitable for everyone we expect to visit—individuals and groups, parents with children and prams, locals, and tourists. Eye-catching signage leads the way. We used the bright colours of the Archibald Prize brand to help people make sense of the space and highlight which areas are relevant to visitors. With accessibility and international visitors in mind, boards are placed at multiple heights. Easy-to-read text and pictograms support non-native speakers. The route is flexible, with staff able to change the signs based on what’s happening each day across the site and expected visitor volume.
Supporting the creation of the Young Archie Making Hub, where budding artists and their families explore their own creativity, was another highlight for the team. We collaborated with Blak Douglas, the winner of this year’s prize, presenting him with concepts of how the space could be used and then creating his vision.
"It’s exciting to work on such a prestigious, important event with brilliant people," says Cassandra. "It’s been really enjoyable to have the chance to think in different creative ways to bring this incredible collection of artworks to life."
The Archibald Prize 2022 is showing at Bunjil Place until Sunday 16 October. Find out more: www.bunjilplace.com.au/events/archibald-prize-2022