How to design a Museum architecture - Nowshera Army Museum Case Study

How to Design a Museum Architecture: Pakistan Army’s Museum Architecture in Nowshera Cantt (Case study)

Museum architecture is an art form in itself, a reflection of a society’s cultural identity and a testament to the enduring power of human creativity. 

Museums are not just buildings; they house our collective heritage, artistic treasures, and historical artifacts, making their architectural design an integral part of the visitor experience.

Designing a museum’s architecture is a profound responsibility, blending aesthetics and functionality and preserving priceless artifacts.

What is the Significance of Museums?

Museums are culturally significant institutions that preserve history and culture, educate the public, and enrich society. Museums serve many purposes: they preserve cultural items, provide learning opportunities, facilitate research, and boost local economies through the influx of visitors.

By interacting with locals, museums can help spread an appreciation for art and culture.

The Importance of Museum Architecture

Museum architecture goes beyond aesthetics. It is more than just walls and ceilings; it is the vessel that carries the cultural heritage of a society through time. It serves as a bridge between the past and the present, connecting visitors with history, art, and culture. 

A well-designed museum showcases exhibits and enhances the storytelling experience, making it more immersive and memorable. 

Before beginning work on designing the Museum’s architecture, gaining a firm grasp on the institution’s raison d’être is crucial. It is crucial to keep in mind that this is the Museum’s overarching goal. Therefore, we shouldn’t stray too far from it as we move forward.

The Museum’s aesthetics should capture the spirit of the objects on display. Museums of all kinds, whether they be dedicated to history, art, or science, require buildings that reflect the significance of their collections.

Factors to Consider in Museum Design

Successful museum design is essential for creating an immersive and engaging experience for visitors while also preserving and showcasing the treasures within.

To achieve this, a multitude of factors must be meticulously considered and integrated into the design process.

Location and Site Selection for Museum

Selecting an appropriate site for a museum is crucial. The number of visitors the Museum attracts depends in large part on its location and ease of access. 

Location is crucial, whether it’s in a historic neighborhood or a more modern part of town. Consider the Museum’s context within its surrounding environment, such as whether it will be in a natural setting (among trees, beside a lake, etc.) or in a more urban setting (and how you intend to frame the Museum’s architecture in that setting). 

Architectural Style of Museum

The Museum’s design aesthetic should reflect its educational mission. 

Many prefer traditional, evergreen styles, while others choose cutting-edge, modern, and contemporary looks. There needs to be harmony between the selection and the displays.

Functionality and Space Planning in Museum

It is essential to make good use of available space. It is the responsibility of museum architects to create environments that can house both permanent and temporary displays. 

The Museum’s layout should be meticulously thought out to guarantee a smooth experience for visitors. Making an educated guess about the ratio of your exhibit space to your area intended for foot traffic is a solid exercise. 

Natural Lighting vs. Artificial Lighting in Museum

The lighting in a museum is quite important. Using natural light to light displays is possible, but it must be managed to prevent damage to fragile items. 

Both natural and artificial illumination should be used. You may determine if you want natural light at the Museum or only artificial lighting if you think about the Museum’s program or goal. 

Sunlight causes irreparable damage to antiques; hence, it must often be avoided.

Soundscapes and Museum Experience

Acoustics are just as crucial. The best possible acoustics let guests take in the displays without interruption. The design should limit background noise and improve the listener’s experience for the public.

Accessibility and Inclusivity

Everyone should be able to enjoy museums. It is important to consider the needs of people with disabilities when designing public spaces. 

Museum-goers benefit greatly from digital wayfinding systems. Using interactive maps and applications improves the overall quality of the trip for the tourist.

Integration of ramps, elevators, and sensory experiences is essential.

Energy Efficiency

Museums are striving to reduce their carbon footprint by minimizing energy consumption.  

Smart lighting, solar energy, and HVAC systems help in achieving this goal.

Understanding the Significance of Army Museum Architecture

Do We Need Army Museums in Pakistan or anywhere else?

Yes. It involves more than just architectural brilliance; it’s about honoring the past, educating the present, and inspiring the future. 

Army museums are not just repositories of artifacts; they are living testimonials of the courage and resilience of those who serve in the military. They remind us of the sacrifices made to protect our nations and preserve freedom.

Contemporary museum architecture emphasizes innovation and functionality. Today’s architects are challenged to create spaces that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also flexible, sustainable, and accessible.

Case Study: Renovating and Designing an Army Museum in Nowshera Cantt.

Nestled within the historic and illustrious Nowshera Cantonment, we were asked to propose the renovation of the Army Museum of Army Services Corps, which stands as a testament to the valor, sacrifice, and rich military heritage of this region. 

Existing Museum building of ASC in Nowshera Cantt.

In this case study, we delve into the fascinating journey of Primarc Studio’s architects renovating and then designing an Army Museum in Nowshera Cantt. This project aims to encapsulate the distinguished history of the armed forces while providing a captivating and educational experience for visitors. 

Our Process for Renovating the Army Museum in Nowshera Cantt

When we were awarded this project by the Pakistan Army’s logistics and transport corps, Army Services Corps, based on our small yet adventurous portfolio, they loved that we were thorough in each and every project and each project was designed according to its context and circumstances. 

Understanding the History of Pakistan’s Army Corps in Nowshera Cantt

Before renovating an army museum that appeals to visitors, guests, students, and army officers alike, we immersed ourselves in the historical context of the Armed Services Corps, also known as ASC. ASC is one of the eleven formations that make up the Pakistani Army.

Through a few presentations on the history of this corp in Nowshera, we first consulted with historians, curators, and military experts to gain a comprehensive comprehension of the rich military heritage and the stories that need to be communicated.

We discovered their role in wars and battles, as well as how their supporting talents helped shape the landscape.

We visited their extant Museum only after comprehending what the corps stood for and what ASC’s services were in the Pakistani Army. Comprehending the corps’s complete concept and history.

Restoring an Aged Army Museum

In their existing Museum, artifacts and collections were dispersed without a distinct narrative or chronological order. The layout of their existing Museum was unclear and confusing for anyone visiting the Army Museum. 

Research on Museum how the external sunlight affects museum along with existing and proposed plan

During our visit, we took note of what was currently on display and what was not. Things were in poor condition because they were ignored and left in the storage area without any proper care.

As of 2020, the building’s age exceeded seventy years. Consequently, we were unable to make significant structural alterations. After taking measurements of the existing building’s interior and exterior, we initiated the renovation design process for this army museum in Nowshera Cantt.

ASC’s Historical Archive: Documenting Museum Artifacts

The initial modification we proposed was to the layout, ensuring that we do not propose the destruction of any walls. For a seamless visitor experience, a well-planned layout is essential. We planned the flow carefully, erecting free-standing walls in a few places and ensuring that visitors could easily move from one exhibit to another and did not overlook anything by accident.

Proposed layout plan along with circulation plan of ASC Museum Nowshera

Then, in multiple sittings, we recorded and double-checked the number of items in ASC’s custody and whether or not the items listed in the spreadsheet/document were present.

After studying their entire history and organizing their artifacts and treasures in an archival manner, we determined that we could only display 30 percent of their artifacts and treasures at any given time.



A Comprehensive Approach to Museum’s Transformation

After reflecting on these modifications in 3D renders, visualizations, animations, and also in a virtual reality tour to ensure that the visitors fully comprehend and experience the entire exhibit from the convenience of their seats.

We displayed artifacts depicting the evolution of military technology and soldiers’ daily lives. Every item, from ancient armor to contemporary firearms, has a story to tell, from the Harley Davidson motorcycle to the Rolls Royce car, which was used in the partition war. Everything was displayed with proper description and order.

Exterior design for renovation of a museum

The evolution of armaments and equipment is intrinsically linked to military history. Display the evolution of weapons, vehicles, and equipment. The uniforms and medals of service members represent their honor and dedication. They were also honored with a display of numerous objects.

Army Museum Design Proposal for exterior

After this meeting with the higher-ups, it was decided that we should expand the project. When they saw our thoroughness and involvement with the Museum, they knew that their project was in safe hands. 


Exterior design for army museum


Interior of Museum and artefacts display


Corridor with timeline of army in the museum


Designing a New Army Museum in Nowshera Cantt, KPK

Following the cancellation of the previous renovation project and the decision to increase its scope, we started over the design process, this time commencing with site selection. This strategic shift enabled us to reevaluate our approach in light of the Museum’s expanded mission.

Choosing Nowshera Cantt’s Landmark Location: Park

The first stage for designing an Army Museum involved an exhaustive analysis of potential locations within Nowshera Cantt, taking into account accessibility, historical significance, and the impact on the visitor experience as a whole. We collaborated closely with urban planners and local stakeholders to ensure that the selected site not only met our objectives but also met the requirements of the community.

After the project’s purview expanded, we returned to the drawing board and scoured the Cantt for potential sites. After visiting the shortlisted sites, it was determined that one was a park with trees surrounding it, and the other was a park with a monument in the middle. This monument park was more deserted than our other proposed location, so we went with the monument park or chaklala park.

Chaklala park in Nowshera Cantt

We viewed this site as a challenge due to the fact that certain constraints compelled us to make innovative decisions. When they saw our decision and realized that a piece of land that had been somewhat abandoned would be put to good use, they were pleased.

Pattern exploration for museum

Architectural Elements and Factors to Consider in Museum Architecture

Plan of Museum in Nowshera

Additionally, we considered the predominant architectural design of Pakistan’s museums. After much deliberation, we determined that we would execute this project in a modern architectural style.

Modern architecture exterior design

After numerous design iterations, the monument was adopted as a design pillar. We emphasized story-telling and created a timeline on the glass wall detailing notable stories of soldiers, their challenges, and the successes of ASC and the Army. This narrative gave the exhibit greater substance.

ASC Museum Exterior Design

This wall-mounted timeline ensures that visitors will be guided. With the glass walls and doors in the middle, we only placed items in the corridors that were not as light-sensitive.

Timeline on the wall of Museum

We ensured that the Museum has an emphasis on narration, interactivity, and educational content. We endeavored to emotionally and intellectually engage our visitors.

Creating an Engaging Visitor Experience

We also created a separate display in the front for the numerous battalions that visited the ASC Museum for training and displayed their shields in the front. The three exhibit wings contain all light-sensitive objects.

One display wing of the museum

Army Museum is situated in a location that is accessible to all, whether they are military personnel or civilians. We ensured that everyone, regardless of physical ability, could access the Museum. This is not only a legal requirement but a moral necessity as well.

Courtyard in the army museum in nowshera

Sustainable Practices in Museum Architecture

We utilized solar panels for the Museum because certain artifacts and objects required temperature regulation and dehumidification. Solar panels were intended to be installed on the Museum’s single-story roof.

Monument of Chaklala park in Nowshera

When observing the exterior of the Army Museum, a typical user would not notice the installation.

Instead of opting for exquisite stones, we opted for local stones and marble, which are indigenous to Nowshera.

Marble used in Museum is local to Nowshera area

Challenges We Face in Designing Army Museum Architecture

Budget Constraints

Building a museum is expensive. Striking a balance between ambition and available funds is a constant challenge. There were a few budget constraints due to which 

Preservation of Artifacts

Preserving and protecting valuable artifacts from environmental damage is a complex task and one which requires energy. Solar panels will mitigate this issue easily.

Changing Exhibition Needs

Museum displays evolve. The architecture must adapt to accommodate new displays and technologies, and display space was left in such a manner that if they wish to add 100 or more items in the coming years, they can do so without difficulty.

A proper storage area with shelving will be of great assistance in this endeavor. 

Retractable roof in army museum nowshera

The Role of Architects and Designers

Architects and designers are instrumental in bringing cultural institutions to life. They must blend creativity, functionality, and sustainability to craft unique spaces.

Before designing a space, they should be receptive to suggestions and familiar with its purpose. Certainly, it requires time, but this makes the labor of love even more productive.

The architecture of museums influences how we perceive and interact with history, art, and science. Designing a museum necessitates an in-depth knowledge of the past, a vision for the future, and a dedication to creating spaces that inspire and engage. As architects continue to stretch the limits of design, museums will continue to be vital, vital institutions that enrich our lives.

Frequently Asked Questions


Question: How long does it take to design a museum’s architecture?

Answer: The timeline varies depending on the complexity of the project. On average, it can take anywhere from a few months to a few years. It took us almost 10 to 12 months.


Question: What is the role of an architect in museum design?

Answer: Architects are responsible for translating the Museum’s vision into a tangible structure, considering aesthetics, functionality, and conservation.


Question: Can a museum’s architecture or exterior design influence its popularity?

Answer: Absolutely. A unique and well-designed museum can attract more visitors and enhance its reputation.


Question: What are the key elements of museum architecture?

Answer: Museum architecture includes elements such as layout, lighting, climate control, and accessibility features.


Question: How do museums contribute to their local communities?

Answer: Museums can stimulate tourism, education, and cultural enrichment in their communities.