Architect: Kahler Slater
Contractor: Riley Construction
Snap-on Incorporated is the global leader in high-performance tools and solutions for a diverse range of critical challenges. Founded in 1920 in Kenosha, WI, the company manufactured and marketed ten sockets that would "snap on" to five interchangeable handles, a concept that revolutionized the tool industry. As they closed in on 100 years of business, Snap-on wished to celebrate its rich history with the associates and customers that created its organization. Their existing 2,528 sf museum space was overpopulated by artifacts and ineffectively represented the Snap-on history. A new space needed to be designed in a way that best reflected the Snap-on brand, what they have accomplished and the global impact they have made.
The main project objective was to take the existing artifacts and create an environment where architecture and exhibits are seamlessly integrated, giving the visitor a memorable impression of the Snap-on brand and its lasting legacy. The design of the museum was intentionally minimal and straightforward, allowing visitors to take a guided tour or peruse the content on their own. The aesthetic evokes the high-tolerance and high-precision methodology of the company – minimalism and a limited color palette emphasize Snap-on’s primary red brand color.
The overall project is comprised of 4,261 sf of remodeled space, encompassing an expanded lobby, expanded museum and support program: curator’s office, kitchen, servery and storage. The museum is divided into three experience zones: the arrival zone, main museum hall and flex exhibit/dining area. There are over 500 artifacts that depict people and events from its 100-year history.
Upon entry, dark zinc metal cladding transitions from the exterior to the interior, with a large sweeping curve terminating into the existing commons space. A neighboring iconic red feature wall takes shape, embossed with the company's founding year. The entry orientation allows a more private entry experience and faces Snap-on’s innovation workshop area. Custom metal grate soffit panels, monolithically backlit, highlight the entry and blackened diamond plate steel flooring frames the entry, leading you into the museum's arrival zone space.
A low curved ceiling supporting a suspended video wall displaying Snap-on's iconic logo sets the tone of the arrival zone. Automated media and lighting, interchangeable client-focused graphics and the first original Snap-on tools are displayed as the revolutionary "five do the work of fifty" story is shared. The story continues with a 150-foot internally illuminated timeline wall, featuring custom recessed casework with metallic peg-board panels that provide changeability of artifacts and displays while evoking a "shop" feel.
Located in the center of the space is the main museum hall divided up by three seamless LED square pendant fixtures. Each square defines a specific exhibit theme: diagnostic, tool storage, delivery and sales exhibit areas. Large dark acoustical ceiling panels are suspended above the lights, extending the entire length of the hall to define the space and provide acoustical attenuation. The hall continues with an iconic red wall extending from the embossed entry feature. A custom rail system is built into this wall for flexibility of additional storylines. The multi-functioning rails allow graphics to be inserted, magnetic graphics to adhere to the face, and heavy 3D elements to lock into this system.
At the end of this space is the flex exhibit/dining area, a dual-purpose space that functions as exhibit and a unique dining experience. Snap-on fabricated custom mobile tool boxes provide storage and display surface for museum artifacts. Hidden away is a kitchen and servery area to support the dining experience in the museum. A large pivot wall allows food service staff to access the museum space during the dining experience. A long line of custom casework, skinned in painted high-gloss steel to resemble a mobile tool box, is provided in the servery area to support the food service staff or create a buffet setting.
The Snap-on museum is a world-class space with many unique features that make it unlike any other corporate museum. The story of Snap-on is clearly showcased and the history of the brand is elevated so that anyone who walks into the space comes away with a deep understanding of the company. This story, combined with a dramatic and elegant design, creates a memorable experience for visitors.
Photos: Peter McCullough