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McAslan wins planning for overhaul of Glasgow's Burrell Collection


John McAslan + Partners has won planning permission for a £66 million regeneration of Glasgow’s Category A-listed Burrell Collection

The 1983 building was designed by Barry Gasson, John Meunier and Brit Andresen, and has been suffering from water ingress. The restoration will bring about a fourfold increase in the L-shaped building’s floor space, allowing 90 per cent of the museum’s 9,000-item collection to be displayed.

The project will open up the museum’s lower ground floor stores for the first time, and create a learning centre, landscaping works, a ground-floor entrance to the café and improved retail facilities. It is expected to complete in 2020.

The Burrell Collection, which is located in the suburban Pollok Country Park, is recognised as one of Scotland’s finest post-war buildings. The collection includes Chinese art, late Gothic and early Renaissance art, and several paintings by Edgar Degas.

John McAslan + Partners executive chairman John McAslan commented: ‘The Burrell Collection’s ambitious plans have taken a major step forward. We are delighted approval has been granted for the renaissance of the Burrell.

‘The scheme has been shaped by the need to address the strains on the current building, by a need to respond to the works held in the collection, and by a desire to contribute further to the Burrell’s unique setting of Pollok Country Park. This decision will ensure the Burrell Collection maintains its strong significance within Scotland and internationally.’

McAslan won the commission last year, ahead of rival bids by Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, Dixon Jones, Reiach and Hall, Page\Park Architects and Hoskins Architects.

A total of 113 suppliers expressed an interest in the tender for the project management-led architectural and building design team. The winning team also features project manager Gardiner & Theobald and exhibition designer Event Communications.



Readers' comments (9)

  • '...improved retail facilities' - hopefully not too improved, because many place where people congregate - from all but the smallest (and nicest) airports, through rail stations and even religious establishments such as Buckfast Abbey, are slowly bur surely morphing into retail centres just as many of our high streets are slowly but surely going to the dogs.

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  • Any plans available of this renaissance ?.......despite the leaking roof, the Burrell is a precious thing. Although completed over thirty years ago, it is yet to be surpassed as an art gallery and museum in the UK. The existing entrance through a 16th century stone archway set in the Locharbriggs red sandstone is fundamental part of the entrance sequence and transition. The incorporation of elements on the collection into the building fabric and the terraces, which meld the building into the landscape of Pollok Park also are critical.

    It's a considered and unique building, surpassed only perhaps by Jorgen Bo and Vilhelm Wohlert's Louisiana in Humlebaek. Judging by these ubiquitous CGI's, I can't yet see how it is being improved, for the new entrance, if that's what it is, is worrying and the images of the new spaces, frankly, rather dull in comparison.

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  • Abandoning the entrance is surely unthinkable, and the second image does seem to show people heading for it rather than what appear to be doors in the distant glazed wall - maybe they're a new exit.

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  • Text from the planning support document, justification for the new entrance.

    "The monolithic gable end entrance wing feels very church like and austere and can often be mistaken for a private building. This unwelcoming approach is reinforced by the lack of views into the gallery from outside. This intimidating entrance combined with compromised accessibility into and around the gallery makes for a confusing visitor experience."

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  • It's never seemed like that to me - John McAslan can do a lot better than this, unless he thinks that people these days would only head for something akin to the new entrance to King's Cross station (or to a big supermarket), and I'm surprised that it's got past the client.
    Mistaken for the entrance to a private building? by whom, exactly - does he think that Glasgow's now miles thicker?
    This isn't some big London gallery where much of the tidal wave of visitors seems only interested in taking selfies and gawping at the view - it's big - but tucked away half a mile into a large city park, and my impression is that visitors are very well aware of where they're going.

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  • In my opinion The Burrell Collection is one of the finest buildings in the U.K. Emerging out of a period of deep decline and despair in British architecture; it represents a lost fork in the road, a fusion of historically nuanced techtonic design thinking that seemed lost until architects such as Herzog & de Meuron and Robbrecht et Daem recuperated a form of mature modern architecture in the early 1990s. In the meantime, British architecture retreated into the ghettoised extremist "unit system" of Hi-tech on the one hand and Neo-Classical Pomo on the other. Apart from 9H magazine, and in particular the On Continuity issue, the mature modern architecture of The Burrell was largely ignored in Britain during the 1980s and 1990s. I am astonished to find that it is not listed; and sadly not entirely surprised to find that it seems to about to be mutilated - it's too subtle and uncompromising and downright bloody good, and that always makes buildings vulnerable to misunderstanding until history catches up with their genius. What is shocking however, despite the risk averse procurement systems of today (which would have excluded Gasson et al at round one), is that a reputable heritage practise like JMP are seriously contemplating redesigning a masterpiece by another architect. I find their approach towards the entrance sequence absolutely arrogant and appallingly stupid; how dare any architect propose to change the entrance to a beautiful and incredibly intelligent piece of modern architecture? How is it possible today that a building of such undoubted intellectual, aesthetic and spatial coherence be subject to such a fundamental misreading? I am appalled that neither national nor local heritage agencies are questioning the banal assumption that somehow the sandstone entrance gable is suddenly now redundant. This is not a mediocre speculative development which needs to be refurbished in order to meet current regulations and to increase profitability - it's a major national monument. Yes, it's perhaps possible to increase floor area without building an extension; but it's infeasibly ignorant and inexcusable to lobotomise a building by irrevocably altering the relationship between its use and its appearance. I hope that John and Hannah at JMP reconsider their plan to render the existing entrance redundant; and that my concerned colleagues in the conservation and design spheres, critical and academic communities join Prof. Dunlop and I in opposing some of these Ill considered proposals. Architecture of this quality needs our critical support, and the combined intelligence of our professional disciplines. This building is too valuable to be modified without due process: and I don't just mean a local planning authority which doubles as the client, but a reasoned critical discussion. In our troubled times, this sort of dialogue is at risk, but it's the basis of cultural continuity, something that the entrance sequence and spatial narrative of The Burrell represents and embodies so well.

    Patrick Lynch

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  • As it is definitely listed - grade A, no less, and the proposed alterations require listed building consent, as well as planning approval, it would be interesting to know just how Historic Scotland view the implications of the proposed alterations for the character of the building, starting with the loss of the remarkable entrance sequence that is such an important feature of the design.

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  • The Planning Application can be found here:

    It includes plans not previously released and correspondence from Historic Environment Scotland, concerning the landscaping proposals and the "height and bulk of proposed play apparatus "but nothing on the alterations to the building fabric and particularly the new entrance.

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  • JMP analysis of the "problematic"existing entrance.

    "1. On entrance to the building you are faced with a very narrow, shallow lobby space which is compressed further on either side by toilets which create a bottle neck on entry to the building.

    2. This 19m long entrance corridor is further compressed by cloakrooms flanking either side extending the bottle neck.

    3. This wonderful triple height space is filled with light from the skylight above. This space is spoilt by a confusing entrance desk and shop.

    4. This moment of compression is spoilt with overflow from the shop and creates a very confusing entrance to the courtyard.

    5. The Courtyard is the buildings natural HUB."

    Perhaps Architects' Journal might encourage a response from John Meunier and Brit Andresen, given these comments and those listed before that the existing entrance is unwelcoming and intimidating?

    Perhaps also simply moving the gift shop and desk away would have made the existing entrance sequence and transition now less of a bottle neck and not so spoiled and confusing?

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