Fireboat A. Grantham

Museum design for LCSD

Located on the waterfront in Quarry Bay Park, the museum gallery opened in 2012 to give visitors a view into Hong Kong’s fire fighting past and the history of the Fireboat Alexander Grantham. The Fireboat itself is installed on site and open to the general public. Occupying roughly 3,500 sq. ft., the exhibition works along a visual timeline covering three key periods, from 1883 to the present day.

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The challenge

The brief included some unusual factors: the enormous physical presence of the Fireboat Alexander Grantham on site, the fact that the museum gallery is semi-outdoors and that the content had to appeal to a wide audience – from young children to adults. The relationship with the public was the starting point for the design of the exhibition gallery. Aiming to create mass appeal, and yet create unique displays, was the primary challenge for the team.

Our Approach

We had to devise approachable and playful methods for telling this important story and connecting to the audience. Four iconic items served as central motifs that transform throughout the exhibition timeline: the Hong Kong skyline, the firemen’s helmets (something children always associate with firemen), fire fighting tools and boat design. How the appearance of these items change over time is key to the chronological narrative of the exhibition.

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Carved out of the adjacent garden and set at level with the sea, the layout of the exhibition gallery curves and flows, just as water does. Circular skylights in the ceiling allow water-tinged shadows to stream onto the exhibition from the pond above, while curved glass walls make all-weather viewing possible.

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The weatherproof display cases are very shallow, so we used a method of layering information similar to stage sets. Various artefacts are positioned in an active mode, showing their function, as opposed to being displayed in a passive manner – while multimedia games and videos add an interactive element to the exhibition.

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We also created all the signage for the Fireboat, highlighting informational elements and designed to relate to the look of the exhibition gallery.