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Kelly Spanou

PhD Work

Make things see: An object oriented exhibition design language

My practice-based research investigates new ways museum visitors can engage with objects by giving the object a voice. Looking at object-oriented programming languages, I develop an object-oriented model for museum exhibitions that uses computation to produce narratives from objects’ perspectives. To do so, I apply ideas from programming to investigate how objects can communicate and collaborate with visitors and other objects in exhibitions. 

Within this thesis, museum exhibitions are defined as environments within which objects are able to engage in a dialogue with the visitor, activating non-anthropocentric narratives. The study specifically employs concepts from computing in exhibition design, to introduce new possibilities for visitor-object engagement, enabling objects to embody certain kinds of viewer-responsive agency. 

Museums come with a history and epistemology related to classification and preservation of objects as containers of knowledge. Every form of display establishes relationships between object, visitor and institution, and generates constraints for seeing and meaning making. Due to the power that exhibitions have in framing meanings, in creating contexts and situating viewers, standardised exhibition methods and display conventions need to be critically rethought, re-conceptualised and potentially subverted. 

By critically adopting concepts from object-oriented computing, my aim is to place the museum object in more active dialogue with the visitor, and conversely for the object to embody something of the visitor’s understanding of that object, merging computational design with narrative. Situated specifically in design museums and positioned as a critical design practice, my research aims to contribute an object-oriented exhibition design language to support narrative production from the object’s perspective, not just that of the exhibition designer or the institution. 

My research is located at the intersection between Information Experience Design and Architecture. Trained in both of these fields, I look at the gallery as a space of political production through narrative, which holds the potential to generate various agencies through a computational approach. 

MA work

A perpetual landscape

This project was inspired by the combination of narrative, motion through colour, composition and brush strokes in J. M. W. Turner ’s painting Snow Storm—Steam-Boat off a Harbour's Mouth making Signals in Shallow Water, and going by the Lead. The Author was in this Storm on the Night the Ariel left Harwich. It recognises landscape as a human construct, whilst aiming to give tangibility to the material appearance of things, in relation with our experience. Extracting components of the landscape in the English seaside town of Margate, and reproducing them with digital and physical fabrication techniques, I question the relationship of physical and virtual in our understanding of our surroundings. 


  • PhD


    School of Communication


    Information Experience Design, 2017–

  • MA Degree


    School of Communication


    MA Information Experience Design, 2016

  • Kelly is an architect and practice-based researcher. She holds an MA in Architecture from the National Technical University of Athens, and an MA in Information Experience Design (IED) from the School of Communication, Royal College of Art, London. In her work, Kelly is interested in non-anthropocentric narratives shaped by post-digital technologies and ordinary objects. Along with her practice and research, Kelly has been teaching in the School of Architecture at the Royal College of Art as part of MA Media Studies since September 2017. She is currently undertaking PhD research in IED at the Royal College of Art, awarded by AHRC, London Doctoral Design Centre. Her research interests include computation to produce narratives from objects’ perspectives, and more specifically object-oriented programming languages as a conceptual framework for exhibition design practices. 

  • Degrees

  • MA Architecture, School of Architecture, National Technical University of Athens, 2011; MA Information Experience Design, Royal College of Art, London, 2016
  • Exhibitions

  • Apeiro, 9th Jena FullDome International Festival, Jena, Germany, 2015; Sonar, 10th Jena FullDome International Festival, Jena, Germany, 2016; Apeiro, Latino Dome Festival, CAP, Medellin, Colombia, 2016; Sonar, RCA Full Dome Research Group, Call & Response Exhibition, Royal College of Art, London, UK, 2016; Melusine (Tabeling,Grogan, Spanou), Ponyland Exhibition, Hockney Gallery, Royal College of Art, London, UK, 2016; Myopia, Exhibition for Le Corbusier’s 50th death anniversary, N.T.U.A, Institution Le Corbusier, Swiss Embassy,French Institute, Int. Foundation Le Corbusier, Greek Institute of Architecture,at Romantzo, Athens, Greece, 2016
  • Awards

  • First Year Students’ Award Prize sponsored by California Academy of Sciences 9th Jena FullDome International Festival, Germany, 2015; First Year Students’ Award Prize, in Latino Dome Festival, Medellin Planetarium, Medellin, Colombia, CAP, 2016
  • Conferences

  • 'Extending the Language of Fulldome Space' (French, Howey and Spanou), International Planetarium Society Conference (IPS) Copernicus Science Centre in Warsaw, Poland, 2016; 'Digital Impressionism' (Ferrarello, Pecirno and Spanou), International Conference and Exhibition on Digital Architecture (DADA), Tongii University in Shanghai, China, 2015; 'Apeiro', Screening at the British Association of Planetaria Conference (BAP), Winchester Science Centre, Winchester, UK, 2015