John Sunderland

The curated works of the author & artist

Cultural heritage & museum design & build projects 1981-2008

Below is a list of major projects in international design and build cultural heritage attractions that I designed between 1981 to 2008.

What’s not listed are the 120 or more consultancy projects, which have been varied and numerous and which have transported me to destinations as far apart and varied as North America, India, Israel, the Nevada desert and closer to home, Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man, Wales, England and Belgium. Also not included is my television and feature film work in Britain.

If you have ideas backed up by several completed and successful moneymaking attractions and a current passport, you may land yourself commissions, which can take you to the ends of the world.

A word of advice especially in the case of international projects; remember before you board that plane to always pack a parachute!

The JORVIK VIKING CENTRE, York Archaeological Trust, York, England. (Original version open 1984-2000, Project Designer)

The CANTERBURY TALES Heritage Projects, Canterbury, England. (Opened 1986, Project Designer)

The OXFORD STORY, University of Oxford and Heritage Projects.  Oxford, England. (Opened 1987, Project Designer)

The WHISKEY HERITAGE CENTRE, Edinburgh, Scotland. (Opened 1988, Project Designer)

The SPIRIT OF LONDON, Madame Tussauds Ltd. London, England. (Opened 1991, Concept Designer)

The WHITE CLIFFS EXPERIENCE, Dover District Council, Dover, England. (Opened 1992, Project Designer)

The EURO-TUNNEL VISITOR CENTRE, Euro Tunnel, Folkestone, England. (Opened 1993, Project Designer)

The MANNAN CENTRE. Peel, the Isle of Man, The Museum of Man. (Concept/Detailed Concept Designer)

DYNAMIC EARTH, Scottish and Newcastle Breweries. Edinburgh, Scotland. (Original Concept Design for The Younger Universe)

The MAPPA MUNDI EXHIBITION, Hereford Cathedral, England. (Project Designer)

The WEYMOUTH TIME-WALK, Weymouth, England.  (Opened 1992, Project Designer)

CELTICA, Machynlleth, North Wales. (Opened 1996, Project Designer)

QUEST FOR A PIRATE, Cape Cod, USA and world traveling. (Opened in Edinburgh 1996. Project Designer)

BLUE PLANET AQUARIUM, Cheshire, England. (Concept Designer)

ENAME, ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE INTERPRETATION, Oudenarde, Regional Government of Flanders. (Opened 1997. Project Originator and Designer)

ENAME MUSEUM, as above. (Opened 1998. Project Designer)

ENAME CENTRE FOR HERITAGE INTERPRETATION, as above. (Opened 2004. Project Design consultant for exhibit content)

WHALERS WHARF, Provincetown Town Council, Provincetown, Cape Cod, USA. (Building design concept)

The RHEGED DISCOVERY CENTRE, Penrith, England. Private Client. (Interpretive Project Designer)

The NATIONAL MOUNTAINEERING EXHIBITION, British Mountaineering Association, Penrith, England. (Project Designer)

NEW PROVINCETOWN LIBRARY, Provincetown Council, Cape Cod, USA. (Logo Design, Designer)

FELLS POINT VISITOR CENTRE, Cultural Sites Research and Management, Baltimore, USA. (2003 Writer and Project Designer)

LOGANDALE TRAILS CONSERVATION PROJECT, Bureau of Land Management, USA, Nevada. (2005 writer, illustrator, designer)

YORK MINSTER VISITOR INTERPRETIVE SCHEME, York Minster, England. (2008, Designer)

GLASTONBURY MUSIC AND ARTS FESTIVAL, PERMANENT EXHIBITION FOR GLASTONBURY ABBEY, The Festival Owner.  (2009, Concept design)

DETAILS OF DESIGN AND BUILD PROJECTS

2008

GLASTONBURY MUSIC AND ARTS FESTIVAL,

PERMANENT EXHIBITION FOR GLASTONBURY ABBEY

GLASTONBURY, England

Client: Michael Eavis, owner of the Glastonbury Festival

Project:

To develop a concept for a permanent Heritage Attraction concerning the myths, legends and history of Glastonbury and surround area. The proposal is to design a presentation that can be housed in a suitable and appropriate manner (possibly seasonal) within the Glastonbury Abbey grounds and/or existing buildings.

Problem:

The attraction must be profitable and create an income stream that would help towards the upkeep of the Abbey.

The Commission:

Concept Designer. The commission involved first hand research in an around Glastonbury and a visit to the famous Glastonbury Festival (and living in a small tent for a week!) as well as studio desk research and the formulation of a method of approach to the storytelling. Glastonbury is loaded with the myths and legends of England, or as one writer put it, “The matter of England”. JSD believed that whilst the attraction would present the legendary, the lasting value of the attraction would be in a thought provoking presentation that balanced the sensational and mythic with historical and archaeological evidence. The attraction therefore would be, engaging, entertaining and educational.

Concept:

The JSD concept was to create an animated high-tech presentation in a large specially designed tented structure. The tent would be installed in the grounds of the abbey and could be de-rigged in the out season or left erected, whichever suited the situation best.

2007

YORK MINSTER

YORK, ENGLAND

Client: York Minster

Project:

The Heritage Lottery Bid required an implementable interpretive program for visitors to the Minster. This was a key element in the bid for grant aid.

Problem:

York Minster, one of the largest and most outstanding Cathedrals in Europe, needed to raise twenty-five million pounds in order to save it’s unique fourteenth century east window, which badly needed conservation. To do this the Minster planned to make a grant aid proposal to the National Heritage Lottery Commission. The Lottery commission required an upgrading of the interpretive services provided for national and international visitors, up to a half a million annually.

Commission:

Consulting Interpretive Designer. JS was commissioned to research the current situation and conceive of an interpretive scheme for visitors to the Minster which would include exterior and interior architecture and the history of the Minster since its’ earliest structural form and going even further back in time, the roman fortress archaeology discovered beneath the foundations.

Solution:

Title ‘Making the Unseen Seen’

JS proposed the use of audio-visual handsets (audio wands were in use at the time). The audio visual handsets, which allow for narrative interpretive texts in multiple languages would be augmented with visitor-selected animations and video which would appear on a small screen on the handset. Literally making the unseen multi-layered history of the Minster able to be seen. The project solution was proposed under the title “Making the Unseen Seen.” The bid of which the new interpretive scheme was a required element was accepted by the Lottery Commission and grant aid was awarded.

2006

FELLS POINT HISTORIC DISTRICT

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND USA

Client: CSRM Baltimore

Problem:

The Historic Fells Points harbourside district of Baltimore, where hundreds of thousands if not millions of immigrants arrived from Europe in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, is a national treasure. The directors of the existing Visitor Centre felt the need for a new and more dynamic presentation of the story of Fells Point.

Project

Create a more dynamic interpretive attraction.

Commission:

Project Designer. JS was commissioned to research, conceive and design a dynamic interpretive format for the presentation of Fells Point stories.

Solution:

‘The Fells Point Time-Bubble’

Having ten years earlier used the Time Bubble device JS invented to present the history of a small village community in Flanders, Belgium, the designer proposed the same method for Fells Point and the concept was accepted.

The installation is based upon a simple user-friendly device, a hemi-spherical acrylic dome under which original artifacts relating to people and stories are placed. The Time Bubble is the centrepiece in a room set-dressed to suggest an arrivals area on a nineteenth century harbourside. The objects may be selected by pressing switches on a circular collar surrounding the dome. When illuminated after selection the choice triggers a video dramatization of the individual connected to the object; for example, a nineteenth century scalpel, with the doctor who owned and used it. The object appears on a large video screen in the darkened room. This is followed by a title text naming both the object and the person it belonged to. An actor playing the part of the doctor then appears as though in contemporary time to relate his story.

2006

LOGANDALE TRAILS CONSERVATION

Client: Bureau of Land Management Nevada

Project:

To devise methods to increase conservation mindedness

among users of the Logandale Trails Desert recreational environment. JS was commissioned to write a fictional story that advocates conservation sensitivity in young all terrain vehicle (ATV) riders and to illustrate the story in a comic book style, for various applications, through audio-visual and print applications.

Problem:

A large area of desert (40,000 acres) in public ownership open for recreational use by a wide range of public users; spiritual and thrill seekers in particular, is under threat from users who pay little heed to the sensitivity of the environment. The delicately balanced ecology evolved over undisturbed millennia, is being irrevocably damaged by the increasing use of all terrain vehicles. The landscape is also of intense religious significance to the local band of indigenous people, and contains many sacred sites.

Commission:

Interpretive Designer, writer, illustrator

Solution:

This first involved working with the local indigenous Iapa tribe members on their reservation and out in the landscape. The object was to understand the nature of the relationship of the indigenous people to the desert environment, and sacred sites. JS then devised a concept for a story that they would find respectful and in tune with the tribe’s mythic heritage. This was followed by the presentation of the concept to the tribal council. Once the council was in agreement in principle, the story was written and adapted to various forms.

2002-2005

‘TIDJNSCAP’ (TIMESCAPE)

The Ename Center for Heritage

Oudenarde, East Flanders, Belgium.

Client: The Provincial Government of East Flanders.

Project:

Concept and design development for a permanent European Center of Excellence in the field of Cultural Interpretation.

The New Centre is to be constructed on a close to an archaeological site and ancient village, where JS previously designed the Ename Museum and Augmented Reality viewing system. The Centre, which will be international in scope, presents not only the local historical story but explores methodologies for Interpretation in the 21st century.

2004-2005

PROVINCETOWN LIBRARY

Client: Provincetown, Massachusetts, USA

Project:

Design for a new logo and graphic system for a new town library in a converted historic building, in Provincetown, Cape Cod.

Problem:

A strong graphic identity was needed to connect the library with its’ heritage of the sea and the arts.

Commission:

Graphic Design, illustrator

Solution:

The logo was made up of a series of briefly executed strokes of a paintbrush creating, a pictogram that can be seen in several ways.

1999-2001

THE BRITISH NATIONAL MOUNTAINEERING EXHIBITION

The Rheged Centre/Penrith

Lake-District, England

Client: The British National Mountaineering Association

Project:

To provide Original concept, design, art direction, production design.

Oversee build and installation.

Problem:

How to relating the broad national, international often heroic history of British Climbers in a confined space with no exterior views and a ceiling height under three meters!

Commission:

Project Designer, writer

Solution:

In a compact space, fifty percent permanent illustrated story/journey through time, incorporating artifacts from the permanent collection intimate historic sets and video narrative segments projected onto surfaces (like the fabric of tents) shot in mountainous locations.

The presenter was the DJ John Peel, who had a love of the adventure of climbing but had never climbed because as he was scared of heights! The theme of his narrative was “Why do you do it?” The sequence ended with a special presentation from inside an expedition tent blowing in the wind, of the 1953 Conquest of Everest. The tent was cooled to such an extent that visitors, who had been on their own virtual expedition throughout the exhibition, sat wrapped in blankets provided. John Peel presented this last video projected onto the moving wall of the shelter from a sleeping bag in a small tent in the Cairngorms where he interviewed George Band, one of the last surviving members of the 1953 expedition.

The other fifty percent of the exhibition was given over to a flexible space for short term exhibits about climbing, then a video area where young climbers got to talk about their passion for climbing and their experiences.

1998-2001

WHALERS WHARF RETAIL AND CULTURAL CENTRE

Provincetown, Massachusetts

Client:  Provincetown Council through Binder Boland Inc.

Project:

Design concept and visualization for architects to detail.

Problem:

A disastrous fire in 1998 destroyed a historic landmark theatre in themaritime area of historic Provincetown on the tip of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. New build had to be designed and built quickly to stay within the local ordnance, which stated that in order for a new build to occupy the same footprint of the original (historic) building, a spade should be dug into the new site foundations within one year.

Commission: 

Project Concept Designer, illustrator.

Solution: 

Link Commercial Street (high street) with the sea and harbour through an internal boardwalk down the central spine of the building, which above was open to the sky. The building is three tiered with shops, galleries, studios, artist workshops, balconied walkways, and a central circular performance /exhibit space.

1997-2000

RHEGED DISCOVERY CENTER

The Lake District, North West England

Client: Private Client, owner of an 80,000 square foot mixed use and visitor center built under an artificial hill on the edge of the Northern Lake District.

Problem: 

Insert interpretive attraction (Video presentation and exhibit) seamlessly into underground shopping centre facility.

Project:

Concepts, scripts and production design for a specially staged audio-visual presentation and exhibition about life in the Lake District.

Commission:

Project Designer, writer, producer

Solution:

A unique film presented on three linked screens with original score presented in a specially designed auditorium using the voices and life-stories of locals.

1996

‘BLUE PLANET AQUARIUM’

Cheshire, England

Private Client

Project: 

Concept design for a successful commercial aquarium in custom designed new building.

Problem:

New design type required for an original staging of an aquarium. Client wanted something different, a unique staging of an aquarium that would make it stand out from existing aquaria.

Commission:

Concept design, visualization, naming

Solution:

Concept developed around the idea of an extra-terrestrial view of our watery planet, hence ‘Blue Planet’. The design concept was an ‘off-planet’ view; that is a point of view that an alien intelligence from another world might have from observing the planet from space and considering what different environments might exist as we now do when we speculate about life on other planets.

1994-98

THE ENAME MUSEUM

Flanders, Belgium

Client: The Provincial Government of East Flanders

Project:

Concept, scripts, audio-visual design and production design

Problem:

Bring to life the archaeology and history of a small Flemish Community.

Commission:

Project designer, writer. Oversee build and installation.

Solution:

Live in the village and get to know it and its’ history. Then put together an intimate exhibit around many engaging stories linked to artifacts in an original way, which through local in connection have universal human appeal. Exhibits presented in traditional and original immersive ways.

Housed in a granted building at the heart of the village,

walk-through with in the upstairs areas custom-designed and built educational area for school visits. One of the attractive main features of the Ename Museum is how much it still fits into the village.

1995-97

The ENAME ARCHAEOLOGICAL PARK AUGMENTED REALITY SYSTEM

Flanders, Belgium

Client: The Provincial Government of East Flanders.

Project:

Originator and designer of the world’s first outdoor on-site augmented reality visioning system.

Problem: 

How to present a large flat archaeological site and bring it to life.

Commission:

Project Designer

Solution:

A World First for JSD. Virtual reality animated reconstructions of buildings which had existed on the site are presented in an on-site open-sided small building. The virtual animated reconstructions on command by the viewer appear to grow from the foundations of the original buildings and are overlaid upon live streaming images from the site in front of the viewer and presented on a screen aligned with the panorama.

Use:

Outdoor environments where interpretation would best be suited to multiple level explanations.

1994-1996

QUEST FOR A PIRATE

An International Traveling Exhibit

Client: Barry Clifford and Co.

Project:

Project concept, design, script, art direction, production design, audio-visual script

Problem:  

The exhibit was based on the discovery of an authenticated Pirate Vessel, The Whydah, originally a converted ship used in the slave trade. She sank during a storm off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The Captain, ‘Black Bellamy’ as he was known, was originally from Bristol. He captured the ship and used her successfully as a pirate vessel in the Caribbean and on the East Coast of America, where he, his crew and the ship finally met their fate. Excavation was undertaken of the site, which produced a wonderful array of artifacts allowing for a comprehensive and unique reconstruction of everyday piratical life. But how to present them in a traveling display?

Commission:

Project Designer

Solution:

The exhibit design used a story-narrative video sequence presented by the treasure hunter himself on a walk through “Quest” to discover the real nature of Pirates and life onboard a pirate ship. The original exhibit used a top-down flow ending with the treasure chest in the basement. However, by the time visitors came across the huge pile of silver and coins, they realize the real treasure is the knowledge that has been gained through conservation and study. The exhibit was first shown in Edinburgh and then was taken on by National Geographic Magazine, which after its’ run in Scotland and world tour, transported it to Washington where it was the Magazines’ most successful exhibit to date.

1991-93

CELTICA

The History of the Celtic People of Wales and Northern Europe.

Machinlleth, North Wales, Britain

Client: ­­­­­­­­­­County Council

Project:

Create a permanent visitor attraction and museum on the theme of the Celtic History of Wales.

Problem:

Design a popular historically correct heritage attraction in an existing historic building, which would bring increased tourism to the local town of Machinlleth and the region.

Commission:

Project Designer. Concept, script, art direction and production design

Solution:

The permanent exhibition is part of a successful re-development of an historic property. The design for the multi-layered re-use and the new facilities were expertly and sensitively undertaken by the Shrewsbury based firm of Architects, Arrol and Snell. The Centre combines a museum, conference facilities, popular café and shop in a converted historic house in a parkland setting on the edge of the town. The ‘experiential ‘ multi-media exhibit takes visitors on a ‘journey’ into pre-Roman Celtic history and Culture in Northern Europe, before delivering them back to the present day reality of a small town in North Wales.

1991-93

THE EURO-TUNNEL VISITOR CENTRE

Folkestone, England.

Client: The Euro-Tunnel Company

Project:

Concept, scripts, art-direction and project design of a visitor centre built adjacent to the opening of the tunnel outside Folkestone.

Commission:

Project Designer

Problem:

Prior to opening its’ revolutionary trans-Manche service, the Euro-Tunnel company had many battles to win, not least of which was with a skeptical British Public. How can the project be explained to the public, and how can their fears around travelling a long tunnel beneath the English Channel be addressed. How to get the investment back.

Solution:

An interactive immersive exhibit was designed to reinforce the idea of the safety and efficiency of the undersea railway crossing and to promote its’ use prior to opening.

1988-1991

THE WHITE CLIFFS EXPERIENCE

Dover, England.

Client: Dover Town Council. Through Richard Ellis and co.

Project:

A new-build historically based tourist attraction and new museum built on the site of a Roman Garrison. Concept, scripts, art-direction and production designer.

Commission:

Project Designer

Problem:

This was an enormous project costing in total some sixteen million pounds. It involved the construction of a linked multi-level facility combining a new town museum and a three-floor ‘Historium’ interpreting the 10,000 year-old human story of the ‘English’ Channel. It started out with the pre-Roman then Roman conflicts and more recently the first and second world wars and the rivalry between the French and the English.

Solution:

The project was a complete new build covering some 40,000 sq, feet that incorporated an actual section beneath a rotunda building of an excavated Roman garrison. The architects were ‘Ahrends Burton and Koraleck and the Project Managers were Richard Ellis and Company.

1988-1990

THE SPIRIT OF LONDON

London, England

Madame Tussauds’

Client: The Tussauds’ Company

Project:

Original Concept Design for the grand finale dark ride

Problem:

Approached by the Managing Director of the Tussauds’ Company,

the job was to come up with an original idea for a spectacular basement level grand set piece, all singing and dancing and all whistling the tune which would fill the visitors to Tussauds’ London flag-ship with good feelings as they completed their visit.

Commission:

Project Conceptualist, Project Designer, project naming

Solution:

The concept, which was named ‘The Spirit of London’, was for a dark-ride celebrating what it is that gives London its complex character and personality. The largely overseas audience could reach up to 2.5 million visitors a year.

1990-1991

THE WORLD OF THE MAPPA MUNDI

Summer Exhibition, a temporary build in the ruins of the Chapter House, Hereford Cathedral

Client:  Hereford Cathedral

Project:

To create a short-term summer installation based only on the imagery contained within the medieval map, to draw attention to its’ unique value as a National Treasure.

Problem:

There had been a flurry of agitated press interest concerning the story that the Hereford Cathedral, in order to raise the money to restore its’ failing roof, was to sell a National Treasure that beforehand had languished for centuries in a dark forgotten corner.

The Mappa Mundi, one of the earliest medieval world maps, was to be sold to the highest bidder on the international market. JS made an approach to the clergy and Cathedral trustees to create a summer exhibit (for which he gave his services free) which would attract the paying public and raise finances.

Commission:

Project Designer

Solution:

40,000 people flocked to see the special exhibit, which raised awareness of the unique collection of treasures that the Cathedral held for the Nation. Following the exhibit, money was provided by the J. Paul Getty Foundation for a custom designed permanent new building for the safe keeping of the Mappa Mundi and the rest of the Cathedrals’ unique collection. The roof was also fixed!

1991

THE MANNANAN CENTRE

Peel, The Isle of Man

Client: The National Museum of Man

Project:

Concept Design and detailed visualizing.

Problem:

A harbor-side site for a brand new visitor centre to the west side of the Island was identified for a multi-million pound development to tell the historical story of the Island.

Commission:

Project Concept Designer

Solution:

The concept developed in detail by Sunderland was taken into production and built by others.

1987

THE DYNAMIC EARTH

Edinburgh, Scotland

Client: Scottish and Newcastle Breweries

Project:

Todevelop ideas for a commercially based visitor attraction on the site of an old brewery in Edinburgh.

Problem:

JS was the creative member of a consulting team (Coopers Lybrand) employed to come up with ideas for the re-development of a plot of land occupied by an old brewery at the bottom of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.

Commission:

Concept Design and naming, outlining of content for exhibits and initial visualization.

Solution:

The site was spectacular; close to Holyrood Palace and in view of ‘Arthur’s Seat’, the rocky outcrop that overlooks Edinburgh, which is in fact the remains of a long extinct volcano. The Brewery had originally been called after its’ founder, ‘William Younger’. The concept for a visitor centre devoted to the formation of the universe, planet earth and its’ geology, came one afternoon at a meeting when looking up through the window at the dramatic remains of the volcano. JS had the idea for ‘The Younger Universe’- which later became, ‘Dynamic Earth.’

1987-88

THE WHISKY HERITAGE CENTRE

The Royal Mile, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Client: The Whisky Blenders Association

Project:

Concept, layout and story outline, for a popular tourism attraction.

Problem: 

The Whiskey Blenders Association had acquired a terrific building just below Edinburgh Castle and wanted a broad-spectrum appeal visitor attraction based on the history of Scottish Whiskey.

Commission:

Project Designer and writer

Solution:

On a prime site just below Edinburgh Castle at the top of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh an old school was converted into an entertaining showcase about the history and production of Scottish Whisky.

1986-88

THE OXFORD STORY

Broad Street, Oxford

Client: Oxford University

Project:

Concept, script, art-direction and production design for a major tourist attraction and orientation centre for the University.

Problem:

Create a broad-spectrum educational attraction for a large volume of mainly overseas tourists relating the history and heritage of the University of Oxford in an existing building of limited space (and three floors) in the centre of historic Oxford.

Commission:

Project Conceptualist, Designer, writer.

Solution:

The ride beginning on the ground floor used sets and linking narrative in multiple languages stacked on three narrow floors of an old book warehouse located at the heart of the University Colleges. The design of the ride, which in effect had to climb inside the building and drop back down again was a technical triumph!

The centre fulfilled an important role for the millions of annual tourists who flock to Oxford from all over the world and who want to have contact and gain insight into its’ history, product, culture and academic life.

1985-87

THE CANTERBURY TALES

A permanent Visitor attraction in a converted medieval church in the historic centre of Canterbury.

Client: Heritage Projects, York

Project:

Create a large volume entertaining educational tourist attraction on the theme of the Canterbury Tales.

Problem:

How to incorporate a high-volume visitor attraction in a relatively small historical-listed decommissioned church building.

Commission:

Concept, script, art-direction and production design

Solution:

Simply put Geoffrey Chaucer’s medieval masterpiece about Pilgrims on their way to a holy shrine, brought to life along a pilgrimage route created within the internal space (all of it) of a de-commissioned medieval church.

1981-1984

THE JORVIK VIKING CENTRE

York, England

Client: York Archaeological Trust

Project:

Design and Build of a ground breaking underground

interpretive centre on a former archaeological site.

Problem:

How to design a large visitor throughput immersive experience in a limited underground space.

Commission:

Project Designer, Concept Development, script, art-direction and production design

Solution:

An underground detailed reconstruction of a section of 10th century Viking York based entirely on the archaeological evidence and finds from the original excavations which will lie forever directly beneath the concrete base of the building in which it is housed. Jorvik broke all the existing rules and all the barriers between the public and curatorial world. In its’ early days it was castigated and applauded at the same time.15 million paying visitors later, it has nothing to prove. Literally a groundbreaking and unique museological development, that changed the face of English museums for good and opened up the way for private entrepreneurship in partnership with the academic world.

John Sunderland

Writer/Designer

Email: j.g.sunderland1@mac.com

Copyright 2006

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