Khémis Marina

From story to space of the museum : For a new approach to collaborations between exhibition design, architecture and programming.

Thesis under the direction of Annalisa Viati-Navone (Léav-Ensav), co-supervised by Anne Lefebvre (CRD) and Nathalie SIMONNOT (LéaV-ENSAV). Thesis defense on April 6, 2023

Abstract: 

This research deals with the design processes of museums and exhibitions and the collaborative work between the actors of exhibition design, architecture and programming. It aims to go beyond the classical separations between program and project, architectural envelope and exhibition design, container and content, function and narrative. Its ambition is to allow commissioning frameworks and creative cultures to evolve, in order to promote a holistic project approach. It reveals the need to study the project not only as a completed object, but also in terms of its design process, and to develop new practical reflections and theoretical approaches, capable of identifying and supporting the collaborative design challenges at stake during the translation "from story to space of the museum".

In order to explore these moments of the design process which are still under-researched, this thesis is based on the analysis of numerous case studies, and is positioned at the crossroads between the fields of Museum Studies and Architectural Design Research. The aim is to reveal the singularity of museum design processes, to demonstrate the necessary re-evaluation of plural and hybrid professional practices, and to identify their platforms of encounter and collaboration. It shows the importance of permeability and mutual influences between the actors, the scales and the stages of the project.

Beyond disciplinary divisions, this research assumes a wide definition of exhibition design as the translation of narratives into spaces intended for the visitors’ wandering movements. Exhibition design is considered here as a practice which can intervene from the very first steps of the project, at all of its scales, and in concert with programmatic, curatorial, architectural and urban reflection. The program, more than a preliminary document, is considered as a potential platform of collaboration between clients and designers, between curators, exhibition designers and architects. From the first intuitions of the project to its detailed design, architecture and exhibition design are considered as complementary vehicles to weave the narrative into space.

This research is carried out within a CIFRE* framework at Studio Adrien Gardère, an exhibition and museum design Studio based in Paris. It calls upon design practice and drawing as central tools of inquiry. It confronts my active involvement as an exhibition designer and project manager at the Studio and within large teams, with a series of interviews with actors who have collaborated on other museum and exhibition projects.

(*The Industrial Convention for Training through Research – CIFRE – is a French fellowship which aims to support doctoral research within a public-private partnership program. It allows the PhD candidate to enroll as a doctoral student in a university whilst also working within a company: here, in a design studio).


The multitude of parameters and project choices suspended - and the need to gradually stabilize the design of the spaces, so that each expertise can coordinate and align. © Marina Khémis, September 2019.


Thesis Director :
VIATI NAVONE Annalisa, Laboratoire de Recherche de l'École Nationale Supérieure d'Architecture de Versailles (LéaV), ED SHS 578, Université Paris-Saclay.
Co-supervisors :
LEFEBVRE Anne, CRD – Centre de Recherche en Design, ENS Paris-Saclay, ENSCI Les-Ateliers, ED SHS 578, Université Paris-Saclay.
SIMONNOT Nathalie, Laboratoire de Recherche de l'École Nationale Supérieure d'Architecture de Versailles (LéaV), ED SHS 578, Université Paris-Saclay.

Modality of the thesis and sources of funding : CIFRE thesis started on December 1st, 2018
Company: Studio Adrien Gardère, agence de Scénographie Muséographie et Design, Paris.
Scientific director within the company: Adrien Gardère

Registration date: December 2018