With some cities shifting out of lockdown, a handful of museums, galleries and theatres around the world are beginning to open their doors to visitors. Behind the scenes, we can be sure that difficult questions regarding social distancing, accessibility, communication strategies and more continue to shape the day-to-day operations of these beloved institutions. To help guide them into effective, but also innovative solutions, two design studios have recently published toolkits for museums to use as we enter the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Inspired by the checkerboard, Draughtsman is a unique spatial agenda for museums first developed by MD-2 Architects for Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. The idea centres around a clear division of space, a common ground floor suggesting areas of circulation and a way to approach objects in an exhibition, including a reception, bookshelf, ticket desk, bar or tables. The floor takes on the rules of international draughts, turning it into a new practice for occupying spaces.

The draughtsman facilitates these measures as if in a game, with a few simple rules:

  • only the dark squares are in use for circulation
  • a move consists of moving diagonally to an adjacent unoccupied square
  • white squares are used for equipping the space
  • aim of the game: effective use of the space with social distancing measures

The team describe their intervention as both a solution as well as an invitation to break apart old ways of cohabiting public spaces. “An epidemic is something that stops our individualistic use of space, but is at the same time something that encourages us to create new spatial agendas,” they write. The proposal is published in full on the MD-2 website, with the hopes of inspiring struggling cultural spaces in the Netherlands and beyond.


Across the pond, Brooklyn-based design firm Isometric Studio has just released the comprehensive Toolkit for Museum Reopening: Design Strategies and Considerations. In clear, concise language and graphics, this set of guidelines offers creative strategies that focus on addressing the experience of a museum visit during Coronavirus. As such, the toolkit is divided into three main sections, tackling ideas for use in indoor, outdoor and virtual exhibits. 

Recommendations include setting timed entries for visitors, replacing paper tickets with face masks, and using floor decals, graphics and signage to guide the circulation of people through each room. The team also suggest new tools and frameworks that could help minimize contact while maximizing impact, including tips for more gesture-driven interactions and examples for flexible outdoor displays and exhibition layouts.

The goal behind the project, is to empower museums to reopen safely and with a renewed purpose. “In a time of health crisis and social transformation, museums are more important than ever,” explained the Studio. “They have the unique capability to help us learn from history, make sense of these troubled times, and cultivate new language and iconography to imagine and build a more just world. We hope that the design strategies offered in this toolkit can serve as a foundation for museums to continue to fulfil this critical mission,” it added.

The toolkit is available for download at the Isometric Studio website.

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