Reality v1.5 (Installed.2)

Senior Designer


Senior Lecturer & Research

'Group Crit' (160pixel)



African Worlds

Role: Designer employed by Jasper Jacob Associates the Lead Exhibition Designer
Client: Horniman Museum
Site: West Hall, Horniman Museum, London
Size: 650 square metres
Completed: January 1999
Awards: D&AD Highly commended award 1999

The 1901 building was commissioned specifically to house the anthropological collection amassed by the Horniman family and is the masterpiece of Edwardian Free Style architect Charles Harrison Townsend.

Opened by Sir Richard Attenborough on 22nd March 1999, this was the first permanent exhibition in Britain dedicated to African art and culture. African Worlds celebrates the continent’s diversity, history and creativity by bringing together a rich collection of sculpture and decorative arts. The gallery displays artefacts from across Africa such as, Egyptian mummies, Benin bronzes and Africa’s largest mask the Ijele.

The aim was to empower the objects in a manner that was devoid of false contextualisation by creating specifically delineated housings for each permanently displayed artefact, much how a contemporary art gallery would treat its content. This strategy of recasting the potency of African art is inspired by the way that Braque and Picasso used African masks, borrowed from the Louvre, to help free Western art from the dialectives of perspective driven representation.

A central island collection of large, double-sided sculptural cases, locked onto a ramped circulatory devise, broken by tall steel structures swathed in natural fibreglass, that display large masks and connect to the perimeter balcony above. Directly above the central island area is an axially oriented canopy, split to provide hot downlight to the ramped walkway and receive abstracted moving sky projections from the heads of the steel and fibreglass towers. This contemporary insertion both engages with the scale of the large vaulted space and respects the purity of Townsend’s original architectural space.