Fuzzy Felts

545x385 IWM London Atrium floor architects' drawing with notes

An early version of the proposed floorplan of IWM London’s transformed Atrium space with our notes included.

When it came to modelling which objects would be selected for our transformed Atrium and where they would be displayed, it soon became clear that neither glue or tape or tack would work.  

Items of IWM collections drawn to fit on architects' drawing.

An early version of our proposed plans for the transformed Atrium at IWM London which has since been revised.

We needed to move objects and stories around to demonstrate groupings and connections; try out new ideas and look at different options for interpreting our collections; to see what would fit.  We needed something that would enable us to layout the cut-outs of the Atrium collections onto the architect’s floor plans. The cut-outs had to be easily adjustable but also hold their positions as they were taken from office to architects, from home to designers.  The conventional methods of holding the objects in place were either too sticky or not sticky enough. It felt like Goldilocks all over again, but where was baby bear when you needed him? The final straw was losing the Atom bomb under my sofa due to a lack of effective adhesive.

Detail of Fuzzy Felt with objects from IWM's collections

An early Fuzzy Felt version of our proposed plans for placement of our large exhibits in the Atrium. Our plans have since been revised.

I can’t remember who first mentioned Fuzzy Felt:  it was the obvious solution but with nothing in the shops it had to be re-invented for this project.  I chose a radiant red felt and marked out the architectural and structural elements.  All the objects were redrawn to a new scale, cut out and fitted with Velcro sticking strip.  Now the project had an effective working tool to help us with new discussions to illustrate the stories.  And now, whether it was in a quiet chat or a presentation to the trustees, it was hard not to be cheered by this Luddite but engaging technology.  In fact, it was just right.

Alas, their day is done : the leftover scraps of felt were cut into Christmas trees and then distributed to the project team, with rejected objects as presents.  Farewell.


  1. Andrew J Scott says: February 19, 20132:24 pm

    Without wanting to sound like a heathen, by why on earth would you not use a simple computer modelling program to do this? That way you would not only have the advantage of confirming -for certain- that all the shapes fit, but that in addition you can take into account three dimensions.

    Once positioned, even the most basic programs now allow you to then walk through to view how the space looks- thus simulating the experience of any visitor and confirming that the items were in the best space.

    While a little more time consuming in the planning and set-up, the subsequent execution would be faster and with reduced risk.

    Surely with so much money being spent, time cost and effort in moving around such valuable exhibit objects, and the visual aesthetic and experience being key to the success of the museum, this would have been a worthwhile process?

    • Roger says: February 20, 20132:42 pm

      Hi Andrew. Both the architects and the exhibition designers have used computer modelling for all the reasons you have outlined, and I also built my own model to explore particular aspects of the design. However the process I am describing came from a much earlier stage, when there was the possibility of using any objects in our vast collections and the groupings and arrangements of the objects as well as the architecture was still in flux. (The different content in the images show something of content evolved). At that point we needed a much simpler tool to test these possibilities without having to make the initial investments you mentioned. Although there are a great number of downloadable 3d models available, creating the eclectic and wide range of material we had selected did ultimately involve a great deal of investment from the designers. It was also a tool that anyone at the table could use and through it could contribute to the discussions: in the early stages this was also important.

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