The Future of Togetherness

Updated: Jul 2

During the third #DesignPopUp virtual panel, our experts discussed the challenges and opportunities faced by the arts sector, and more specifically by the beautiful buildings dedicated to the performing arts.


Theatre Royal Glasgow by Page\Park (photo credit: Andrew Lee)

Organised in collaboration with Glasgow practice Page\Park Architects, well known nationally and internationally for projects like the Theatre Royal in Glasgow, Leeds Playhouse, and the Birmingham Symphony Hall, this third virtual panel saw the participation of:


Nicola Walls – Head of Culture & Arts, Page\Park Architects,

Alex Reedijk – General Director at Scottish Opera,

Andrew Wylie - Partner at Buro Happold.


Critical Issues:


The panel agreed that there is a range of considerations to be made when the government will give cultural spaces the green light to open. The main factors to carefully consider and plan will be how to allow social distancing; how to regulate visitor behaviours; what cleaning procedures to implement and how to direct the visitor flow within the building.


Andrew Wylie of Buro Happold said: "Home-to-Seat’ considerations need to be well-thought-out for every aspect of the future visitor experience in cultural buildings. Every detail from transport and travel, social behaviours, and changes in how ticketing is processed will all need to be measured carefully.”


Alex Reedijk, General Director at Scottish Opera, agreed and stated these changes will be put in place using a reduced workforce and limited access to finances, which will significantly increase the pressure on ensuring all changes are implemented correctly and safely.


Adaptations:


Andrew Wylie suggested that the likelihood of designing and constructing new cultural spaces was slim when we already have a catalogue of fantastic buildings. He felt that the more practical solution would be to adapt the existing structures, possibly making these building into multi-use spaces for people to enjoy.


Andrew drew our attention to other sectors who have successfully adapted and improved their spaces to accommodate social distancing measures and showed full confidence that museums, galleries and theatres can do the same.


On a different perspective, the Head of Arts and Culture at Page\Park, Nicola Walls, suggested that several technological products and innovations, that had previously been considered a luxury element of a specification and rejected in cost-saving exercises, may have become all of a sudden a mandatory requirement. Innovations like sensor-flow taps, automatic entry systems and so on would facilitate a higher level of hygiene and safety in our theatres and museums.


Theatre Royal Glasgow by Page\Park (photo credit: Andrew Lee)

The future ahead:


Nicola Walls considered that at a time when decisions and regulations are evolving on a daily basis, it would be unwise to make any solid plans in the current situation. She recommends to await a more definitive direction, a more stable situation to find out what the "new normal" will be.


Looking forward, the panellists felt that theatres, museums and galleries would likely welcome their audience and visitors back using allocated time-slots, socially distanced seating, routine cleaning, and changed social behaviours.

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