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Carmody Groarke wins go ahead for Dorset Museum plans

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Carmody Groarke has scooped planning approval for its £13 million extension and revamp of Dorset County Museum

The Dorchester museum, which won £10.3 million lottery funding in 2015, hopes planned improvements will help it double visitor numbers to more than 80,000 a year.

The extension of the Grade II-listed museum will allow for specialist display and conservation of objects from its internationally important geological, archaeological, palaeontological, literature and fine art collections.

As well as increasing gallery space to allow for more of the museum’s four million artefacts to be on public show, the scheme - a mix of refurbishment of existing buildings and new build - will create a learning and activity centre, larger and improved shop and cafe facilities, additional space for volunteers, and better workshop and storage facilities.

Carmody Groarke landed the commission following an invited contest three years ago (AJ 29.04.14).

Kevin Carmody, director of the London-based practice, said achieving planning permission and listed building consent would enable the museum to offer a ’much more coherent and comprehensive visitor experience’.

He added: ‘Careful restoration of existing buildings will be given new context and meaning by the addition of contemporary architectural interventions.

’Not only will this be a locally and regionally important civic building, it will allow an international quality collection to be cared for and exhibited in one place for the first time and to be enjoyed for generations to come.’

The museum’s Collections Discovery Centre project received initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) in 2015, with the award of £483,900 facilitating a two-year development plan. The museum is in the process of making its final submission to HLF for the rest of the funding.

David James, commercial director at the museum, said the ‘extremely significant improvement in facilities’ tied in with the wider ‘cultural renaissance’ in Dorchester.

The town’s Shire Hall, the scene for the trial of the Tolpuddle Martyrs in 1834, is set to open to the public later this year after securing investment from the HLF. Architect Haworth Tompkins has been working with the charitable body Dorchester Arts and the Maltings Arts on proposals for a £8.8 million new 450-seat theatre and arts centre at Brewery Square.

James said one of the challenges with the project’s design was that improvements over the years to the building, which has been the museum’s home since 1883, meant its layout was ‘a bit higgledy-piggledy’. ‘We are part of a fairly significant listed curtilage so it’s had to both accommodate the listed building status and provide a very modern accessible building inside,’ he added.

The new facilities are due to open in 2020.

Project data

Location Dorchester
Type of project Museum
Client Dorchester County Museum
Architect Carmody Groarke
Structural engineer Price & Myers
M&E consultant Skelly & Couch
Quantity surveyor MDA Consulting Ltd



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