Visitor Comfort in Museums: Lobbies and Stairs

Crowding in lobbies, atria, and other transitional spaces is understandable in older, outdated buildings, but strangely, it’s being built into new museums. 



This is the lobby of the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York.  The primary way to reach  the galleries, which are all on floors above the ground-floor lobby, is a pair of elevators. Slow elevators. Crowds like this gather in the lobby about every five minutes. The only other way to get upstairs is a small staircase set off to the back of the lobby like an afterthought. 



Here’s a stairway in the same museum, connecting the galleries on two floors. Since all galleries are two stories high, it’s very long and very narrow.slide-24It’s very artistic and all, but I would not want to be caught in this narrow space in an emergency. 



This is the new de Young Museum in San Francisco, which opened a couple of years ago. The rise and run of this staircaise are such that you overshoot the next step but don’t quite reach two steps below.It’s not exactly human scale, unless you’re 6’8″, or perhaps 3’4″. It’s an annoyance bordering on a hazard.



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