From its cathedral to its Roman theatre, St Albans isn’t short of historic sites. And now, the Hertfordshire city has a new cultural attraction: the St Albans Museum + Gallery.
Set over three floors in a former town hall, the museum is home to artworks and artefacts dating back 2,000 years. The Georgian building opened in June following a two-year refurbishment project led by John McAslan + Partners, who restored its former courthouses and prison cells and transformed the grand first-floor Assembly Room into a gallery. The site will host contemporary art shows and cultural events as well as exhibitions exploring St Albans’ past.
Studio Sutherl& worked with the architectural practice to create a new visual identity and wayfinding for the museum, taking inspiration from the city’s historic coat of arms and its saltire flag.
The museum’s logo is made up of four triangles, with the negative space forming the shape of a cross. The logotype provides another nod to the cross, with its name rotated 45 degrees to form an ‘x’ instead of a plus symbol.
The triangles can be scaled up or down and placed on a range of backgrounds to illustrate the museum’s varied collection and cultural programme. They can also be used as a framing device to highlight details in artworks or objects.
Triangles are used throughout the building: angled signs protruding from the walls help guide visitors around the space, while captions are printed on triangular stands. In the cafe space, menus are fixed to boards with triangular paper clips.
The identity uses a single typeface (Kingfisher, designed by Jeremy Tankard), throughout, and its navy and gold colour palette is inspired by the yellow and blue of the St Alban’s flag.
Studio Sutherl& also created a range of patterns for merchandise and collaborated with interior design and architecture practice Mowat & Co on the design of exhibition spaces. Mowat & Co developed a ‘kit of parts’ for the museum – including moveable display cases and caption stands – which can be rearranged to host events without disrupting exhibitions and match the grey, oak and brass interiors.
Jane Wentworth Associates developed the museum’s brand strategy, which is based on the idea of “exchanging ideas” and “building understanding”. Studio Sutherl& says the strategy will position the museum as a place to “inspire civic pride” and “bring communities together”.
It’s a thoughtful and imaginative identity system: the triangles give the museum a flexible device that can be scaled up and down or moved around to tell a range of different stories, and the use of negative space provides a subtle but recognisable link to a historic symbol of St Albans.
The navy and gold colour palette and geometric shapes creates a contemporary feel, but one that is rooted in the city’s past, and the triangular details found around the museum create a strong link between the museum’s communications and the building itself.