Wilkinson Eyre's 'jewel' on Swansea waterfront
The start on site of Wilkinson Eyre's new museum in Swansea was officially celebrated this week with a visit from Wales' first minister, Rhodri Morgan. The National Waterfront Museum Swansea is one of the first museums to be designed since the abolition of admission charges, and the scheme reflects this change.
The project, which combines the creation of a new building with the reuse of an existing warehouse, is planned to act as much as a meeting place as a series of exhibition spaces. The majority of the ground floor of the original building is given over to the museum shop and cafe, together with commercial space to attract visitors to the waterfront. And a large entrance area creates a 'street' that links the new and old elements, to form a general meeting and milling point and venue for concerts and outside broadcasts.
'Free admission changes the nature of a museum, 'said Chris Wilkinson, 'because it allows people to drift in and out of it.'
The building is also a slight departure for the practice, he adds, but 'it still looks like it's coming out of our office'.
Could it be a third Stirling winner for the practice, which has already taken the prize with Gateshead Millennium Bridge (2002) and Magna (2001)? 'It's something we're very pleased with, 'Wilkinson said. 'I was looking to create a jewel rather than a big shed. From the brief it could have just ended up as a shed on the waterfront, but I like to think its actually a well-crafted building with depth and complexity.'
The £12.4 million project, which has already secured substantial Heritage Lottery funding, forms part of ambitions to revitalise Swansea's Maritime quarter in particular and the city in general. 'This new cultural element is very much aimed at putting Swansea back on the map, ' Wilkinson added.