Sam Jacob’s wacky Cartoon Museum in London

Prime Time

Boom! Sam Jacob Studio has unveiled a punchy new home for London’s Cartoon Museum that takes design cues from comics’  bold graphic tropes and often-cheeky humor.

A 3-D explosion graphic marks the entrance, while the exhibition spaces are arranged in boxes like cartoon comic strips. The two main galleries, an education room, and a gift shop (cha-ching!) are encased in a graphic wall of cheery trees, clouds, and drip marks that suggest the museum has leaped off a drawing board. Loony Tunes–esque features abound: The education room is accessed via a hidden door in a fake bookcase, and comically over- and under-sized doors channel visitors into the galleries. A red stairwell is decorated with semi-solemn portraits of famous cartoon characters in a display that’s part comic strip, part Victorian mansion.

A 3-D "kapow!" punch out greets visitors at the entrance. (Jim Stephenson)

The bookshelf conceals a door to the education room. (Jim Stephenson)

The Cartoon Museum got its start in 1988, and today it features work from Ronald Searle, Ralph Steadman, Steve Bell and Heath Robinson, and other British artists in its 6,000-piece collection. A 18,000-volume library of comics and cartoons complement the art on display. The $2.5 million new building (£2 million) is a guaranteed home for the museum, at least for the next 25 years.


The entryway (Jim Stephenson)

The gift shop counter spells out "hello" in giant cartoon letters. Not pictured: an adjacent kid-height shelf comprised of three exclamation points. (Jim Stephenson)

“I’ve always been interested in the relationship between drawing and architecture, so to be able to explore ways in which graphic, 2-D ideas can be translated into physical space and material things has been a joy,” Sam Jacobs said in a prepared statement.

The gallery

(Jim Stephenson)

The architect’s irreverent style complements the museum’s approach. He is best known as a founder of FAT Architecture. More recently at Sam Jacob Studio, his solo project, he designed the V&A Gallery for Shenzhen, China’s Design Society. The gallery was V&A’s first international outpost.

The Cartoon Museum is located at 63 Wells Street, London W1A 3AE. More information on hours and exhibits can be found here.