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Purcell renovates former brewery to create Cornish archive centre

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The 4,840m² Kresen Kernow is a new archive centre which holds a vast collection of documents relating to Cornwall’s history

As part of the development, Purcell has restored and safeguarded the historic Redruth Brewery at the heart of the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site. The brewery is a collection of industrial buildings developed at various times during a period of over 200 years.

The archive centre holds 1.5 million manuscripts, books, maps, photographs and documents spanning 850 years, constituting the world’s largest source of information recording the Isles of Scilly and Cornwall’s people, places and culture.

Redruth Brewery closed in 2004 with various arson attacks in 2011 and 2013 devastating the buildings’ interiors, reducing several of the structures to shells supported by temporary propping.

Purcell kresen kernow ©phil boorman (3)

Following this, the site was redeveloped after receiving funding from Cornwall Council and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Taking the strong aesthetics of the brewery’s historic fabric as inspiration, Purcell pushed to retain the remaining structures and adapt the interiors to make suitable exhibition spaces and a library. A new two-storey, environmentally controlled store – which includes up to 14 miles of archive racking – has also been added. This is clad in precast concrete panels to contrast with the brewery.

A 33m-high 1930s brick chimney has been retained at the centre of the new extension, with uplighters installed at roof level to illuminate it at night.

Another extension which accommodates a display area at first-floor level is clad in copper to create a focal point close to the site entrance.

Purcell kresen kernow ©phil boorman (13)

Reintroducing original features of the brewery, previously infilled openings have been reopened and fitted with new hardwood-framed windows and glazed screens. The original granite flagstones have been carefully lifted out and then relaid within the new ground-floor exhibition space. A few cast-iron columns have been salvaged from the fire-damaged building and incorporated into the new steel frame supporting the first floor and roof. 

Render and plaster coverings have also been removed from the stonework, while brick gables at high level have been reinstated.

Before restoration ©purcell (4)

Before restoration

Architect’s view

Kresen Kernow reduces its environmental impact by retaining and conserving much of the historic building fabric, including the stone walls, cast-iron columns and granite flagstones that have been reinstated in the main exhibition space. The interior of the former brewery is naturally lit and ventilated via opening windows and rooflights, which are fitted with solar control blinds to prevent glare and overheating.

The new ‘Archive Strong Rooms’ have been designed to provide closely controlled environmental conditions, along with four-hour fire protection, and flood prevention measures, in accordance with the recommendations of PD 5454 (British Standards 2012 Guide for the Storage and Exhibition of Archival Materials). 

The environmental design of the strong rooms is based on a passive design approach, with the air-handling units designed to operate in a ‘mostly off’ control mode. Recognising acceptable seasonal fluctuations in conditions, and harnessing the significant thermal mass and insulation of the building fabric, ensures that the heating and cooling requirements are very low, with the mechanical equipment only needed to prevent significant changes in conditions.

Electrical services in the archive strong rooms have been minimised to reduce energy consumption and lessen the fire risk, and include the installation of a VESDA fire alarm system which avoids the need for ‘active’ equipment, while significantly reducing the amount of electrical wiring. Light fittings incorporate non-UV LED luminaires and are controlled by presence detectors.

To maximise energy efficiency, the internal environment of Kresen Kernow is controlled by a Building Management System, while a photovoltaic array on the roof of the archive provides power to the building. The design and layout of the panels allows the array to be expanded in the future, once it becomes commercially viable to send surplus energy to the National Grid. 

David Burne, senior architect, Purcell

201 proposed gf plan jpg (no colour)

Ground floor plan

Project data

Start on site October 2016
Completion September 2019
Gross internal floor area 4,840m²
Gross (internal + external) floor area 5,120m²
Form of contract or procurement route New Engineering Contract (NEC 3)
Construction cost £16.5 million
Construction cost per m² £3,410
Architect Purcell
Heritage consultant Purcell
Client Cornwall Council
Structural engineer Arup
Civil engineer Arup
M&E consultant Arup
M&E subcontractor Totus
QS Mace
Landscape consultant Arup
Fire engineer Buro Happold  
Project manager Mace
CDM principal designer Purcell  
Main contractor Midas

266 proposed section a a jpg

Section AA

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