Interpreting heritage and architecture is crucial in the preservation of cultural and architectural heritage for future generations. Mather & Co worked on Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings, also known as the ‘grandparent of the skyscraper’, which opened towards the end of 2022. The design consultancy worked closely with leading architects, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, to transform Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings into a thriving community hub, comprising office space, retail, café, and exhibition. Working with architects is a core part of Mather & Co’s work to enhance the overall visitor experience around a site or buildings – allowing Mather & Co to develop a powerful and engaging narrative, connecting with those who visit them.
Developing a compelling narrative
To create an engaging architecture and heritage experience, it is important to develop a compelling narrative connecting people with the historical significance and cultural value of a place or building. There are various methods with which we can create these connections through personal accounts, modern technologies, and interactivity.
Through the curation and presentation of personal stories, experiences and artefacts belonging to those who lived or worked in that place, we can provide visitors with threads of relatability, familiarity, and even ancestral connections in some cases. Mather & Co developed an impactful free-flow narrative in ‘The Mill’ exhibition at Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings, the exhibition showcases the captivating history of the mill, the workers, and the architectural significance of the building itself. The exhibition is exploratory, split into five general themes, with ‘People and Process’ highlighting the men, women, and children at the mill who suffered the relentless, uncomfortable working conditions of this early industrial factory.
Incorporating various interpretation methods is vital, especially when trying to engage a diverse audience. Storytelling is a powerful tool for engaging audiences and making them feel emotionally connected to the heritage and architecture they are experiencing. Mather & Co aims to tell stories through their design that allow visitors to understand the significance of a particular site, its heritage, and its cultural value – whilst also ensuring the stories are compelling, accessible for all, and resonate with the audience.
With modern technologies such as augmented and virtual reality, Mather & Co are able to reconstruct lost heritage such as buildings and artefacts, to re-enact past events and to represent past-times in compelling, multi-sensory, immersive experiences.
Mather & Co’s work at Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings includes different types of interactivities in the space – some tactile, some sensory, and others digital. Digital interactivity helps us to bring to life ‘long disappeared’ history or fill in the blanks where the complex site has changed over time. A large 3D mill model with integrated AV, reveals what happened inside the building at different points in time along with a changing site plan at different periods in time.
An interactive touch table celebrates Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings’ influence on the town – as a driver for other industry and infrastructure, and as a catalyst for the transformation of local neighbourhoods as workers flooded in to work at the mill.
Physical interactives are equally important in an exhibition: a giant spinning machine takes visitors through the process of spinning thread; a table interactive describes the many uses of flax; visitors can ‘move the floor maltings rake’ to reveal the maltings process and touch/ smell malt.
Interpreting architecture and heritage in engaging ways requires creativity in storytelling, and the use of multimedia experiences. By using these strategies, we can help visitors to appreciate the value of architecture and heritage in a more compelling way, creating a deeper connection to our built environment and the stories it tells.
If you’d like to explore further how Mather & Co can help with your project, then please contact us at email@example.com.