Exhibition design as conflict mediation at Ipiranga Museum

Ana Paula Pontes
Architect at Metrópole_arq and Dr Teacher at Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism of the Mackenzie Presbyterian Institute, São Paulo, Brazil

Anna Helena Villela
Architect at Metrópole_arq

Opened in 1895, the Ipiranga Museum was the first public museum built in São Paulo. For several years, it has been managed by the University of São Paulo – USP. After being closed since 2013, the museum underwent extensive restoration and renovation processes. It finally reopened in September 2022, coinciding with the celebration of Brazil’s 200th anniversary of Independence. The museum’s collection focuses on the history of material culture and, upon reopening, offered a unique experience to the public. The exhibition featured 11 permanent displays showcasing items from the museum’s collection, along with a temporary exhibition. In total, over 4,000 items were exhibited across an impressive 5,456 square meters.
This paper will delve into the proposal for the museum’s exhibition design, which was carried out by Metrópole_Arq. The design takes a contemporary approach, aiming to establish a dialogue with the Eclectic architecture of the building itself, which is considered a monumental piece within the collection.
The project encompasses the creation of a flexible exhibition display system that can be adapted to different rooms and exhibitions. Alongside graphic panels and object displays, each room includes mobile stands in the center. These stands provide a wealth of information through various sources, including texts, images, audiovisual monitors, and tactile objects. Notably, the historical paintings are presented detached from the walls. This serves as a reminder that they represent the artists’ interpretations of their time, rather than definitive opinions on historical facts. The design solutions developed through meticulous curatorial research aim to present the objects to the public with complementary information, emphasizing their significance as witnesses to specific periods in history rather than mere precious treasures. Ultimately, these innovative design choices offer visitors a fresh perspective on the museum’s collection.

Key words
: Exhibition design in landmark architecture

Ana Paula Pontes is an architect and urbanist graduated from FAU-USP, with a master’s degree from PUC-Rio, and a Ph.D. also from FAU-USP. She has been involved in projects and constructions of large-scale cultural buildings, such as the Pinacoteca do Estado and the Museu da Língua Portuguesa in São Paulo, as well as the Cidade das Artes and the New MIS in Rio de Janeiro. She began her work in exhibition design in 1999 when she joined the design team at MAM Rio de Janeiro. Since then, she has developed numerous projects for institutions throughout the country. She is a professor at FAU Mackenzie, where she is involved in the research and extension project Museus em Conexão (Museums in Connection), aiming to integrate discussions on art and architecture into the field of museums and exhibitions. Since 2017, she has been with Metrópole_arq, and alongside Anna Helena Villela, she has worked on the design of the long-term exhibitions for the New Museu Ipiranga-USP (2020-2022).

Anna Helena Villela
graduated in Architecture and Urbanism from FAU-USP, where she also completed her master’s degree in 2019. In 2003, she founded Metrópole_arq, focusing on architecture projects with an emphasis on cultural buildings and exhibition design. She has been involved in exhibition design projects for institutions such as MAM-SP, MASP, SESC, SESI, and the São Paulo Biennial. In addition to museums dedicated to art, she is the author of the long-term exhibitions at the Museu de Zoologia-USP (2015) and the New Museu Ipiranga-USP (2020-2022), alongside her partner Ana Paula Pontes.