Suzanne MacLeod

  • Tuesday 6 March 2018
  • 5.30pm-6.30pm
  • Ken Edwards Building, Lecture Theatre 1

This lecture will be signed and will have live subtitles.

Design for Creative Lives (or, why the closure of Launchpad matters)

What do the museums we build say about the world in which we live? What do they say about the society we envisage for our own and others’ children? Why does it matter that an increasing number of our museums are designed with ‘spend per head’ in mind or that long-standing and highly popular exhibitions have been replaced by corporately sponsored displays and placed behind a pay wall? And are there other ways of making museums (designing buildings, displays and exhibitions) which might, rather, be an investment in the creative lives of citizens and society as a whole?

Introducing a live research project and walking through a series of innovative museum projects, past and present, this lecture seeks to unfold a thread of progressive museum design which has prioritised people, social relationships and social expression. Advocating that museum design be approached in full recognition of museums as vital shared spaces and as opportunities to shape our public realm, the lecture will identify some of the characteristics of these types of spaces emerging from the research as well as the ideas about space, design and social relations that sit behind the project.

The context for the research is of crucial importance and the idea of design for creative lives will be set against the ongoing economisation and commercialisation of museums increasingly evident in their built forms and in the disappearance of certain types of museum making from the cultural landscape. It will be argued that these highly destructive drives go against the reformist origins of museums as well as contemporary calls for museums to release the social potential of culture and open up to more inclusive and participatory practices. To continue along a trajectory where visitors are consumers and income generation shapes decision making is to forget the power of culture and the way that we are, as Wendy Brown has noted, "held together by literatures, images, religions, histories, myths, ideas, forms of reason, grammars, figures and languages".

Drawing on projects from around the world over the last 70 years, the lecture will reveal some of the dynamics shaping museums at the current time and argue for a greater level of reflection on museum making.

Professor Suzanne MacLeod

06.3.18 Suzanne Pic.jpg

I joined the School of Museum Studies in 1997 after undertaking a BA in History of Art and Architecture and an MA in Art Museum and Gallery Studies, both at the University of Manchester. Before that, I trained and worked as a graphic designer. On arrival in the School I worked as a Research Assistant on the development of what was then the new Distance Learning MA in Museum Studies before being appointed to a Lectureship in 1999. Since then, I have undertaken a number of roles in the School including Distance Learning Academic Manager, Deputy Head and, from January 2013 to July 2017, Head of School.

I have developed a series of events and publications which explore contemporary museum design, with a particular focus on design methodologies and the acknowledgement of the potential of design in socially-motivated cultural organisations.

Projects include:

  • an international conference in 2005 entitled Creative Space
  • an international conference in 2010 entitled Narrative Space
  • a conference and design master class series in Taiwan and Hong Kong

I have a strong interest in teaching and have continued to innovate with colleagues – most recently starting a new Module with Richard Sandell and I have a strong interest in international working and have run a number of projects with partners overseas.

I studied part-time with the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, whilst working the School and was awarded my PhD in 2012.

In 2015, I was appointed as a member of the University Council for three years.

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