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New look for Wakefield Archives


The West Yorkshire Archive Service in Wakefield is the third largest local authority archive in Great Britain comprising over 10 million documents. The service exists to make this history accessible to the public and to look after the region's heritage for future generations.  The original archive centre was in need of repair and extensive refurbishment and it was decided to move to new purpose built premises. As a result, YPO’s Design Service team were asked to help design and furnish the new office and public space at the archive.

 

The Brief

As a public engagement space, YPO’s brief was to help the archive centre achieve a functional and flexible space which had the capacity to evolve as the centre’s needs changed over time.

As well as being accessible for day-to-day business welcoming visitors to the archive, the space is also a venue for a learning and events programme involving local schools, colleges and community groups.

The move to new premises was seen as an opportunity to make the archive centre much more accessible, opening up the public space to a wider range of visitors.

 

The Challenge

What this meant for the design team was the need to develop a solution which offered high levels of flexibility – so no fixed furniture or a rigid design layout.

Archivist David Morris, who is responsible for the public space, explains, “We didn’t want to be tied down or fixed to a specific layout, we wanted it to be as flexible as possible, and of course stylish and welcoming. We have come from a building that wasn’t accessible, so this was very important to us.”

The design also had to encompass both the public and back-office spaces and strict budgets were in place to deliver the project. 
“We worked closely with Alex in the design team. She made suggestions as to what might be useful, how many desk spaces we needed to consider and ways the furniture could be adapted for our requirements. As we worked through the process, there were some items that we simply couldn’t afford, but alternatives were found and we were able to kit the building out to a very high level.”

Choosing the designs and selecting pieces such as chairs and desks is a big responsibility that impacts on staff and visitors in a very practical way. The space needed to be comfortable and functional as well as stylish and flexible. YPO overcame this by undergoing a process of consultation and testing of key pieces of furniture.

Continued David, “We received a large number of test pieces, such as desks and chairs, so we could see how they would work out. Both staff and the general public tested them to see if they would work for them.

“It worked very well having that kind of test run where we had multiple things to choose from. We were very aware that what might work for us might not work for the public. The team at YPO were more than happy with this approach, and it meant that staff felt engaged with the project as they could have a say and feedback on our choices. It was very worthwhile being able to carefully consider and try out the different options available to us. We also shared plans for the layout so everyone felt involved throughout the whole design process.

“Our biggest worry when thinking about a new design and sourcing furniture was that we’d be left to choose from a catalogue, would make the wrong decisions and be left with furniture that didn’t match and wasn’t suitable. Working with YPO, we were guided through the whole process, we had one point of contact who helped us select the best options which was really helpful, and it meant we weren’t dealing with multiple suppliers. We also weren’t rushed at all. We wouldn’t have been able to do it ourselves.”

 

The Result

YPO provided layouts, quotes, 3D images and placed reception counters, all loose furniture, including height adjustable desks, and fitted furniture in the archive’s conservation studio. Reactions to the new space have been really positive.

Concludes David, “Feedback is that it’s a really comfortable workable space. Indeed, visitor numbers have tripled since the refurbishment. We are also having more events now, which is something we couldn’t do before. We are very happy with the end result.”

 

 

YPO Primary furniture guide
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Our furniture planning guides have been designed to help you kick start your furniture design project. Each guide offers product recommendations and layout inspiration that you can use to create a space tailored to your needs. Click to download our public sector furniture planning guide.

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