Celebrating 40 years of hsd


2021 marks the 40th year since hsd was founded. Over the past four decades we have had the opportunity to play a key role in the design and development of significant cultural and historic landmarks around the globe.

Our journey has taken us to medieval castles, civil war forts, and magnificent palaces. It has, and continues to be, an honour to work alongside various practitioners in the heritage field on these projects - from our partners in architecture and construction who specialise in heritage and conservation schemes to our clients who operate as conservationists, curators, councils, and preservation foundations. Assembling a passionate and collaborative design and client team that shares the value of stewardship is the first step to forging a remarkable visitor journey, that not only leaves an impact but is deeply respectful and rooted in the historic fabric of the buildings and sites we help to develop.

To mark our own historic anniversary, we look back at some of our most iconic conservation-focussed schemes.

Norwich Castle
hsd is thrilled to be working with the Norwich Castle team as exhibition designers for their NLHF-funded ‘Gateway to Medieval England’ project. In partnership with the British Museum, the project is part of the wider revitalisation of Norwich Castle that aims to restore it to its former glory as a pinnacle among the Romanesque  castles of Western Europe. Following a successful NLHF Round 2 pass and the securing of £8.7 million in funding, hsd is currently working with the project team to support a re-opening of the Keep.

The project will drastically improve the visitor experience across the site and make it a more accessible building by reinstating the Norman Principal Floor including the Great Hall, King’s Chamber and Chapel, as well as creating a new visitor entrance, café, and shop. A new Medieval Gallery will provide Norfolk Museums Service with the opportunity to showcase their own stunning collections from the period, supplemented by carefully  curated artefacts on loan from the British Museum.

hsd has worked closely with the client team, architects, and specialist consultants to design a scheme that achieves a vision for the Keep that is respectful to the historical environment. Within the Ground Floor of the Keep are the remains of large pillar structures that would have originally supported the Principal Floor above. As part of the reinterpretation of these features, hsd has collaborated with the project curators, historical advisory board, and architects to propose a contemporary sculptural lighting installation that will evoke the pillars’ impressive sense of scale and artistry.

The interpretative approach explores the lives of those who lived during the period 1066 to c.1534, which saw great innovation and change, with a focus on Norwich and Norfolk as a significant and thriving hub to medieval life. Throughout the redeveloped Keep, visitors will follow the three main themes of ‘Those who Pray’, ‘Those who Work’ and ‘Those who Fight’. These societal markers are described by numerous medieval chroniclers, depicting contemporary society. The experience will therefore allow visitors to engage with the medieval world as understood by medieval people themselves.

Qasr Al Hosn
Qasr Al Hosn is the oldest and most significant building in Abu Dhabi, holding the City's first permanent structure, the watchtower. Qasr Al Hosn was redeveloped as a world-class museum hosting a wealth of personal objects from the rulers of Abu Dhabi, historical artifacts, tactiles, as well as archival footage and imagery. The resulting visitor path through the site is a sympathetic, comprehensive and engaging experience that takes visitors on a chronological journey of the nation’s history through milestone events and key figures, all while respecting and utilising the landmark itself as a significant storytelling tool.

During development hsd liaised with specialist architects and engineers to carefully consider the underlying infrastructure needed to support the revitalisation of the site and intended visitor journey. The Inner Fort, the oldest and most historic part of Qasr Al Hosn, underwent a complete restoration to create an improved visitor experience. The architecture here was focussed on accurate historic replication of the Fort in its most original form. Power and lighting were integrated into the base build and are non-invasive, allowing visitors to have a sense of the Palace’s origins and experience the spaces as they would have been throughout the Palace’s rich and vibrant history.

hsd developed a series of graphic structures that act as non-invasive “insertions” into the period rooms, each carefully deploying translucent material that allows the interior architecture to remain central to the visitor’s experience. We also created small vignettes, or theatre pieces, to help visitors connect with the original purpose of various spaces, along with the people who lived, played, and worked in and around the Palace.

Perched on Locust Point in the historic Baltimore Harbour, Fort McHenry Monument & Historic Site is primarily known for its role in the Battle of Baltimore in 1814. Over two days, the Star-shaped fort – as well as the 1000 solders it barricaded - successfully defended the Maryland shore. The battle, and the tenacity of the structure and soldiers to persevere against all odds, inspired Francis Scott Key to pen what became America’s national anthem “The Star-Spangled Banner”.

To commemorate the 200-year anniversary of the event, the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) commissioned a  refurbishment of the Fort alongside the development  of a new visitor centre that would incorporate physical interactives, exhibitions, and multimedia built around the story of America’s flag and anthem. hsd worked directly alongside NPS staff and historians to craft the centre’s  interpretative aspects which pay homage to the anthem’s development as well as the significance of the Fort and site in the development of the nation.

Our goal was to completely re-order the visitor journey at the Fort and National Monument, providing a careful and conscientious experience which would begin at the new visitor centre and propel visitors onward and outward through carefully planned and non-invasive graphic panelling, which reignite and reimagine the site-wide visitor journey while bringing its story to wider audiences.

Magna Carta at Salisbury Cathedral
hsd was commissioned to work with Salisbury Cathedral to develop a revitalised ‘Magna Carta Experience’ as part of national 800th anniversary celebrations of the signing of this momentous document. The Cathedral plays host to one of the four remaining copies of the charter to this day.  

Initially, hsd assisted the Cathedral with interpretative and concept design planning, and was then commissioned to deliver the final scheme.  The challenge was to develop an impactful new exhibition, that complimented the beautiful historic fabric of the Cathedral setting.

Undoubtedly, the most significant opportunity for the exhibition was the chance to engage with a wider audience profile, most notably of families, young people and local communities who perhaps were not regular visitors to the Cathedral.  To achieve this goal, we employed a two-fold strategy – of widening the narrative focus of the displays and introducing new forms of exhibition media into the experience.  
Given the Grade I listed status of the Cathedral and Conservation Area (within The Close) and its context

as a working Cathedral, we coordinated closely with the client team to consider how the public spaces are used, how to manage the arrival experience and how to steer large numbers of visitors through the spaces. We also explored the design opportunities presented by the historic architectural setting and in particular those opportunities posed by the natural light present within the Cathedral itself.

Our team liaised closely with the Cathedral’s Fabric Advisory Committee to ensure that exhibit fixing elements were suitable for the historic setting, working collaboratively to identify nonobtrusive methods to integrate interpretation and comply with conservations standards.

Reflecting on our Approach
Any project involving a historic site or structure carries with it inherent questions regarding appropriate stewardship. While we often look to enhance and expand upon a site’s visitor and audience numbers our work is always informed by the various heritage considerations that must be balanced with tourism and business needs.

The need to appropriately address a site’s preservation however is far from an inconvenient challenge that must be contended with. As we have shown in these examples, it often enables designers to consider the wider uses of a site and structure in the overall interpretative strategy at play. Designing to the specific conservation needed of each client simply increases our toolkit of reference points, celebratory effects, and impactful explorations we can bring to the visitor. In doing this work, and doing it well, the aim of hsd is to inspire future generations who will inherit the responsibilities of preserving – and perhaps designing visitor journeys for – our most treasured cultural assets.



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