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Birmingham Museum shelves design tender for £18m overhaul

Birmingham museum and art gallery from the central library image by jimmyguano
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The Birmingham Museums Trust has abandoned its search for an architect to oversee an £18 million revamp of the city’s Grade II*-listed museum and art gallery

In a statement, the trust blamed a ‘major scope and major time frame revision’ – a decision which could leave many bidders out of pocket.

The trust said: ‘A change generated by a key stakeholder has resulted in a major scope and major time frame revision. In accordance with tendering procedures we are reluctantly cancelling this tender.

‘We will advise when we have any further updates. We note the response from interested parties was of a very high standard.’

A spokesperson for the trust was unable to shed further light on the project changes or on its revised brief or timeline and no information was available about when the search for an architect team might resume.

The shelved contract sought an architect-led multidisciplinary design team to reconfigure and upgrade the landmark venue, which occupies the west end of the iconic Council House in Chamberlain Square.

The project set out to improve exhibition spaces and wayfinding inside the gallery, which is next door to the site of John Madin’s former Birmingham Central Library, controversially demolished last year to make way for a new 7ha mixed-use district dubbed ‘Paradise’.

The Victorian Baroque Council House complex was designed by Yeoville Thomason in 1885 and extended in 1917 by Ashley & Newman in the Edwardian Renaissance style. The museum and art gallery hosts more than 500,000 objects and receives close to 1 million visitors a year.

The overhaul project, originally planned to complete in 2022, set out to restore the building, enlarge display areas, improve collections care, upgrade disabled access and deliver a new prayer room, toilets, public realm and meeting rooms. Additional commercial spaces for retail and catering were also planned, alongside new learning facilities and research areas.

A new 3,500m² back-of-house facility was also set to be created in a yet-to-be-chosen site within 25km of the gallery. The proposed annexe was expected to house museum stores, offices and conservation facilities currently occupying the ground and first floors of the Council House extension.

Up to five teams were due to be shortlisted for the £2.6 million design contract.

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