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Role of exhibition is vital to a design's success

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Letters

Thank you for your excellent review of The Deep in Hull (AJ 11.4.02). As one of the last of the big Lottery projects, it is a dramatic achievement and a testament to the possibilities of multidisciplinary collaboration.

Sir Terry Farrell spoke at the Hull School of Architecture on 21 March and gave an excellent account of the genesis and progress of the design. With a prompt from one of my colleagues, Sir Terry acknowledged the crucial role of the exhibition designer, John Csáky Associates, in realising the overall concept for the visitor experience.

Tellingly, Sir Terry expressed his belief that architecture and exhibition design form a continuum of interests. The urban relationships of built form and communicative experience of content are equally important to the creation of design concepts for visitor attractions. This is one of the great lessons of the past decade, which future clients would be wise to acknowledge by appointing design teams of requisite expertise right from the beginning of a project.

With this in mind, I take exception to one of your reviewer's comments. The interiors of Farrell's Centre for Life in Newcastle upon Tyne were not 'commandeered' by the exhibition designers (AJ 6.7.00). Event Communications produced an excellent exhibition for the designated exhibition spaces. It threads its way through a forest of unnecessarily distracting columns and beneath a superfluous skylight in a way that explores and delights in the transition from ground level organic space to mezzanine dark space. More importantly, it provides a full two-and-a-half hours of entertainment and education and addresses a diverse audience very successfully. If the interior architecture is not perfect, neither is the exhibition. Perhaps both architects and designers were still learning abut this type of collaboration at the time.

There are some sloppy details of finish, and cleaning the exhibition must be a nightmare.

Like the exhibition in the Centre for Life, The Deep's also includes views down into the exhibition space. The difference is that they are more controlled and the tops of free-standing exhibits more considered. The quality of graphics, audio, audio-visual and 3D exhibitory is what we have grown to expect in recent years - excellent.

The weakest links are always the interactive elements, not because the communication design is any less successful but because of the difficulty of sustaining a programme of exhibit maintenance, evaluation, redevelopment and replacement.

I sincerely hope that The Deep generates the income necessary to renew its high-quality exhibitory - for year-on-year success, repeat visits and audience development are the names of the game.

Dr Geoffrey Matthews, Hull School of Architecture

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