University of Leicester
2020VLACHAKIAPhD.pdf (4.32 MB)

Towards Participation in Museum Architecture

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posted on 2020-12-01, 22:11 authored by Aikaterini Vlachaki
This thesis sets out to explore how museums can use the planning processes of museum buildings as a vehicle for fulfilling their social role, even before their establishment as physical entities. Considering people as experiential co-designers who hold a valuable tacit knowledge of design and museum matters, museums can transform the planning processes into a participatory endeavour. The thesis examines two examples of innovation in practice, two museum buildings built from scratch or redeveloped through participatory processes: The Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art (USA) and The Derby Silk Mill Museum of Making (UK). The first key finding of the thesis is that participatory intentions are not solely results of a purely social agenda, but also of a wider institutional agenda that could potentially seek to legitimise certain inequalities through a participatory endeavour. The research also found that the role of leadership is key for both inspiring and sustaining participatory initiatives. Another key finding is that a project widely communicating its participatory character could in fact involve similar forms and degrees of participation with a project with a less systematic approach towards its participatory nature. Additionally, the research shed more light on the systematisation of participatory planning processes of museum buildings and their key challenges and found that the source of funding could impact the degree of experiential co-designers’ participation in the project and “alienate” the outcomes from the initial participatory intentions. Finally, this thesis found that participatory planning processes are not necessarily antithetical to conventional planning processes and can be realised within the tangible, bureaucratic reality that frames any building project. Articulating the first steps towards a participatory model for museum architecture, this thesis manifests that participatory planning processes of museum buildings are a viable option and encourages both museum and design professionals to take little steps towards change.



Suzanne MacLeod; Isobel Whitelegg

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of Museum Studies

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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