In 2015, we joined forces with Architecture 00. Together, we enjoy collaborating in a shared environment where strategic, urban and social designers, architects, programmers and economists practice design beyond its traditional borders. 00 work with individuals, governments, corporations and communities to solve problems and anticipate change, and to design successful platforms and places. As a studio it aims to reach beyond the design of objects themselves to the social, economic and environmental systems behind them.

Rainham Hall

Working with the National Trust and a host of collaborators, Studio Weave has designed and implemented a new visitor experience strategy for Rainham Hall in Rainham, Havering. 


Rainham Hall will be home to a changing programme defined by a series of past inhabitants.  Each season, a new inhabitant will move in to Rainham Hall and make it their home, bringing with them furniture, furnishings and a programme of thematically linked events and activities.  Each attraction seeks to balance a community focus with scholarly content, alongside joyful entertainment.

Our proposals seek to enable the National Trust in their mission to preserve the house ‘for ever, for everyone’ and our exhibition strategy has been designed to work in harmony with the fabric restoration of the Hall.

Detailed paint analysis was carried out in each space in the Hall by the National Trust; using this information, we built up a picture of what had happened to each room over time.  The strategy was to return the room to the décor scheme of the inhabitant that had the most profound impact on that room.  Thus, the multiple stories of the various inhabitants are expressed through the Hall’s architecture, rather than taking the entire Hall back to one singular moment in time.

Rainham Hall is made up of many small, interconnected spaces.  The exhibition strategy takes advantage of this and uses each space to tell a small component of the larger narrative.  Each room tells a different chapter of the story, but it can be read in any order.


Some spaces have both interpretation and exhibits, some only have interpretation or exhibits, others have neither and are opportunities for contemplation or triggers for conversation.

In all spaces, the aim is to allow the architecture to shine and allow visitors the opportunity to view the architecture with equal weight to the exhibition pieces.


The exhibition strategy plays on the cellular nature of the Hall’s architecture.  Using the Hall’s small and discreet spaces to our advantage, the exhibition furtively places exhibits in cupboards and nooks, heightening the sense of discovery and giving the visitors the sense that they may never have seen the entire exhibition.  

Small walkthrough spaces connecting one large room to another are a particular feature of the Hall and these have been appropriated with multi-sensory exhibits to make the most of their transitory nature.


 


Nestled in among the exhibits relating to the current inhabitation are pieces that relate directly to Rainham Hall itself.  These pieces may tell a snippet of a story about a past resident, give more information about a particular or peculiar aspect of the Hall, or showcase the living history of the Hall and Rainham by displaying everyday items that have been lost at the Hall throughout the years.

A unique feature of Rainham Hall is its ‘everyman’ existence.  Each addition or change made by each and every past inhabitant all contribute to telling the story of the Hall.  Our aim for the new exhibition strategy at Rainham is to celebrate the rich history of the Hall, involve the local community in the redevelopment of their resource, and above all, to make each visitor feel at home.

All too often, our approach to history fixates on one specific moment in time.  This moment is both fleeting and idealised.  A house (a home) sees many inhabitants over its lifespan, so how can we choose one moment to preserve forever? 

Rainham Hall has been home to an eclectic, eccentric cast of characters over the years.  What if each of these characters was invited back to live at the Hall, for a period of time?


Each character has made their own mark on the Hall; small changes, redecorations, comfort additions.  The Hall’s inhabitants each have their own histories – this layered approach considers each story important, celebrates the multifarious narratives of Rainham and celebrates the richness of people’s history.

The inhabitants range from a sea-faring merchant, children of a county nursery, a lady once painted by John Russell, and a camouflage artist turned society photographer.  A selection of these will be invited to come back to live at the Hall for a period of time.  The first inhabitation invites the Hall’s originator, Captain John Harle, to once more come and live in Rainham.


‘Everything John Harle Left Behind’ is an exploration of the life of John Harle, through all of the things that he lost or left behind; Rainham Hall being the largest of these.  In this inhabitation we explore the Essex landscape of Harle’s time, experience the risks taken by sailors in the 18thcentury and discover the sole surviving copy of John Harle’s will.  

On the ground floor, you can make yourself at home in Lloyd’s coffee house, sample the coffee of the 18thcentury and read the news.  A new game charts the trials and tribulations of being a sea merchant, using real 18thcentury coins handled through a glove box.

Moving up to the first floor, one room contains a sea chest with authentic items that a merchant like John Harle might have taken to sea with him. 


A replica of Harle’s ship is marooned in the Bay of Honduras.  Nursery rhymes from Harle’s childhood drift melodically through the rooms, leading you onto the next discovery.  

Taking the steep and winding stair to the second floor, an authentic set of Hogarth prints are waiting to be examined.


After John Harle, a new inhabitant will move in to tell their story.