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Buttress takes over from Purcell on £11m revamp of Preston’s Harris Museum

Harris Museum, Preston
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Preston City Council has chosen Buttress to revamp the Grade I-listed Harris Museum Art Gallery & Library

The practice will effectively take over from Purcell, which had worked on the initial funding application for the £10.7 million scheme. Dubbed Re-Imagining the Harris, the project will restore and expand the James Hibbert-designed 1893 complex (see Purcell’s outline designs from 2018 below).

After winning a first stage development grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund early last year, the scheme was retendered by the local authority with a second-round funding application later this year.

According to Manchester-based Buttress, the practice has been asked to ’revisit the brief’ and says ’it will be bringing a fresh perspective and some new ideas to the scheme as part of that process’.

The project, which will bring together museum, library and art gallery collections and services, includes opening up existing but disused entrances and reconfiguration of the interior, as well as creating a new staircase and lift.

In its brief, the council said: ‘Our aim is to create a democratic and high-quality offer with constantly refreshed and community-led museum, art gallery, library services and cultural activities delivered in a truly seamless manner. We want to utilise the unique opportunities provided by the Harris as a much-loved part of the city’s heritage and townscape for the city, housing an excellent range of collections.

‘The role of museums and libraries must evolve as society continues to change at a rapid pace. Therefore, we want to create an animated cultural and community hub for the people of Preston and Lancashire. The Harris should become a factory for stories and memories, celebrating Preston’s past, present and future, providing a range of opportunities for users to be creative and have their voice heard.’

Bids for the project were evaluated 70 per cent on quality and 30 per cent on cost. It is understood the design contract is worth nearly £200,000.

Neal Charlton, director at Buttress, added: ’The Harris has been at the centre of civic and cultural life in Preston for more than 125 years. This project will enhance the role the building plays in the community allowing it to reach new and more diverse audiences, while encouraging visitors to connect with its important collections in new ways.’

Preston was awarded city status in 2002 and is home to around 114,000 people. The Harris Museum Art Gallery & Library is in the city centre, close to the Grade II*-listed Sessions House and Cenotaph. The museum’s collection includes paintings by Lucian Freud and Graham Sutherland, and a 13,500-year-old Ice Age elk skeleton.

Harris front side purcell 2018

Purcell’s outline plans for Preston’s Harris museum, art gallery and library

Purcell’s outline plans for Preston’s Harris museum, art gallery and library

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Readers' comments (1)

  • It would be interesting to hear the City Council's take on Buttress's description 'revisit the brief".

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