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McAslan considers changes to contentious Burrell plans


John McAslan + Partners has agreed to review some parts of its proposed revamp of Glasgow’s Category A-listed Burrell Collection, following a meeting with one of the original architects

Last week John McAslan met with John Meunier, who co-designed the 1983 building with Barry Gasson and Brit Andresen, to discuss his criticisms of proposals create a new entrance and open up more space to the public.

The meeting was arranged after Meunier said last month that the plans were ‘unnecessarily destructive’ to the original fabric.

McAslan said that the meeting had been ‘constructive’, and that his team was potentially looking to re-examine the consented scheme and discuss their thoughts at another meeting next month.

He told The Architects’ Journal: ‘We agreed to meet again later in the summer and to share the various areas we agreed to review.’

Meunier said that he had been ‘encouraged’ by the meeting, even though he said that no major commitments had been made, other than a promise to bring surrounding woodland under the scope of the scheme.

He said: ‘Alex Maclean, who is Glasgow Life’s project manager for the Burrell, gave evidence both of flexibility and of a genuine affection for the original building.’

But a statement to the AJ from client Glasgow Life seemed to play down the idea that major revisions are in the pipeline.

A spokesman for Glasgow life said: ‘Architects John McAslan + Partners met with one of the original architects this week to discuss details of the approved scheme and a further meeting will be arranged this summer to share progress on the detail of the design development.’

In April, Glasgow City Council approved plans by the practice to open up the museum’s lower ground floor stores and create a new entrance, learning centre, landscaping works, a ground-floor entrance to the café and improved retail facilities.

Concerns about Burrell 

Why Richard Marks, keeper of the collection and assistant director of Glasgow Museums between 1979 and 1985 is worried about the new plans 

‘The proposed new south entrance disrupts the integrity of the overall design. Moreover it removes the only area where the large stained glass panels can be displayed in toto (there was no area designated for these panels originally, but one settled on by Barry [Gasson] and I for this reason). As far as I can see the new entrance involves the destruction of the reconstituted Hutton Castle Dining Room: not only would it ruin the symmetry of the trio of Hutton rooms, but also abrogate Burrell’s stipulation that all three should be incorporated with their fittings and furnishings – unless of course the Trustees regrettably have agreed to the proposal.

‘As for the existing entrance arm, I disagree that it is unwelcoming; if there are problems with the internal flow, surely the solution is an internal reorganisation of some of the furnishings? Finally, the original concept of a journey of discovery and surprise will be lost (through the entrance arm into the light and space of the courtyard and glimpses of what lies beyond along the north and south walls).

‘Fundamentally the problem from the point of view of visitor numbers is the location in Pollok Country Park – and that will not, I suspect, go away by tinkering with the exterior.’

Burrell Collection. Image by Finlay McWalter

Burrell Collection. Image by Finlay McWalter

Source: Image by Finlay McWalter

Burrell Collection. Image by Finlay McWalter


Readers' comments (3)

  • Possibly good news - John McAslan is too good an architect to wilfully compromise a fine piece of architecture, and clearly big enough to listen to criticism, but the attitude of the client should perhaps be of rather more concern; a few years ago I noticed the very poor state of repair of the Museum of Modern Art (the very fine former Royal Exchange) in the city centre, with mature vegetation established on the cornice of the north elevation and signs of severe water damage to the stonework.
    I phoned Glasgow Life, was put through to a person involved with maintenance, and got a polite hearing from someone who didn't sound particularly interested.
    The current Google StreetView image of the building from the Queen Street corner shows this area last June obscured by scaffold access for work on the tower, so I'd like to think that the whole building is now better cared for.
    But I just wonder if the quality of the management of Glasgow Life matches up to that of what it's supposed to be caring for?
    It would be a great shame if John McAslan's readiness to take on board fair comment was negated by a client with deaf ears - and as for the city planners, and Historic Scotland, who knows?

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  • I agree Robert, this is possibly better news. However, if Glasgow Life has deaf ears, it may require the necessary intervention of the Scottish Government's Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop MSP. She is responsible for architecture and heritage and said this at the awarding of Category Grade A Listing for the Burrell Building:

    "The Burrell Collection is one of Glasgow and Scotland's most impressive buildings of its period and has contributed so much to our understanding of design thinking and the innovative use of interior and exterior space.

    The A-listing for the Burrell Collection is a fitting tribute especially in this its 30th year and recognises the significant contribution it has made to Glasgow's landscape and the aesthetic pleasure it has brought to many over the years."

    Let's hope Fiona Hyslop and the newly elected SNP leadership at Glasgow City Council will intervene to halt this crass intervention , force Glasgow Life to open their ears, rethink and save the building.

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  • joseph b fitzgerald


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