Institute of Archaeology


International Design Competition Winners 'Reimagining Museums for Climate Action'

3 November 2020

The winners of the International Design Competition 'Reimagining Museums for Climate Action,' developed by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Heritage Priority Area, were announced recently.

Reimagining Museums for Climate Action international design competition

Reimagining Museums for Climate Action is an international design and ideas competition which was launched on 18 May 2020 for International Museum Day. The competition, which closed on the 15 September, challenged designers, architects, academics, artists, poets, philosophers, museum professionals and the public at large to radically (re)imagine and (re)design the museum as an institution, to help bring about more equitable and sustainable futures in the climate change era.

The competition was developed by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Heritage Priority Area, led by Rodney Harrison of the UCL Institute of Archaeology, in conjunction with Colin Sterling (also based at the UCL Institute of Archaeology) and Henry McGhie (Curating Tomorrow).

The AHRC Heritage Priority Area takes an expansive view of heritage, and aims to encourage and stimulate work that highlights intersections between natural and cultural heritage, and key global challenges. Work on the design competition was undertaken in partnership with Colin as part of his own AHRC-funded leadership fellowship project 'New Trajectories in Curatorial Experience Design', and Henry, founder of Curating Tomorrow, a consultancy which aims to help maximise the contribution that museums, the heritage sector and other organisations and sectors make to support a thriving society, economy and environment.

The competition attracted significant international attention, with 264 submissions from 48 countries. Entries were judged by an international panel of museum, architecture and design, climate change, heritage and sustainability experts who were impressed with the creativity and originality of the submissions.

The winners - eight successful teams - each receive £2,500 to develop their ideas into exhibits, which will be displayed at Glasgow Science Centre ahead of and during COP26, the United Nations Climate Change conference. COP26 is due to take place at the Scottish Event Campus in November 2021. Glasgow Science Centre, which is situated next to the SEC, will be playing a key role in the conference.

The exhibition will be accompanied by talks, workshops and other activities encouraging debate around the future role of museums and heritage in times of rapid environmental change.

According to Rodney:

the number, range and quality of the proposals we received far exceeded our hopes and expectations. The response to the competition shows how significantly the need to transform our institutions for climate action is viewed by the public, and the hopes for museums to participate in a range of different ways in this transformation. We are excited to begin working with the competition winners and Glasgow Science Centre to develop our exhibition in advance of COP26 next year".


  • Weathering With Us (Isabella Ong & Tan Wen Jun; Singapore) which imagines a new kind of contemplative museum space where climate action is materialised in the very structure and experience of the building.
  • Existances (Jairza Fernandes Rocha da Silva, Luciana Menezes de Carvalho, Nayhara J. A. Pereira Thiers Vieira, João Francisco Vitório Rodrigues, Natalino Neves da Silva & Walter Francisco Figueiredo Lowande; Brazil) which shows the power of collective knowledge in the fight against climate change, imagining a network of micro-museums embedded in and responding to the diverse cosmologies of Afro-Brasilian, Amerindian and rural communities.
  • Elephant in the Room (Design Earth: Rania Ghosn, El Hadi Jazairy, Monica Hutton & Anhong Li; USA) which offers a fantastical story in which a stuffed elephant comes to life and forces museums and wider society to confront their role in climate change.
  • Museum of Open Windows (Livia Wang; Nico Alexandroff; RESOLVE Collective: Akil Scafe-Smith, Seth Scafe-Smith, Melissa Haniff; Studio Mash: Max Martin, Angus Smith, Conor Sheehan, UK) which repurposes the existing global infrastructure of museums to support inter-community collaboration and citizen research on climate change and climate action.
  • Dundee Museum of Transport (Dundee Museum of Transport: Alexander Goodger, Katherine Southern & Peter Webber, UK) which asks how a traditional museum might evolve to address the contemporary challenge of sustainable travel in an inclusive way.
  • Story:Web (The Great North Museum:Hancock (GNM:H), Open Lab: Simon Bowen, Sarah Mander & David de la Haye; UK) which mobilises existing museum collections to empower people to curate their own climate stories, experiences and networks on a global scale.
  • A Series of Collective, Non-Statistical Evidence (pppooolll: Kamil Muhammad, Haidar El Haq, Amelia M Djaja, Gregorius Jasson & Ken Fernanda; Indonesia) which applies familiar museum practices of collecting, display and participation to imagine spaces of dialogue, where different communities come together to share and articulate their personal experiences of climate change.
  • Natural Future Museums (Takumã Kuikuro & Thiago Jesus; Brazil/UK) which asks what it would mean to confer museum status on existing Indigenous lands in forests and other places that play a key role in climate action.

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