John Meunier, one of the architects behind Glasgow’s Category A-listed Burrell Collection, has severely criticised a proposed overhaul by John McAslan + Partners (JMP)
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.
But Meunier, who designed the 1983 building with Barry Gasson and Brit Andresen, has told JMP he has serious worries about the approved changes, telling the AJ that the plans were ‘unnecessarily destructive’ to the original fabric.
In a letter to the practice, Meunier, who is emeritus professor of architecture at Arizona State University, said: ‘I find the new entrance lacking in any architectural merit and it does not seem to produce a new logic of circulation, however much it may resolve practical issues; and I also find the new hub, particularly as illustrated in your rendering, thoroughly confusing and without any dignity, in no way sustaining the seriousness and quality of the original building.’
Planning documents submitted by JMP with the application described the existing gable and entrance wing as ‘very church-like and austere and can often be mistaken for a private building’.
The application continued: ‘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.’
But Glasgow architect Alan Dunlop said: ‘The entrance is not confusing and is already obvious. It is certainly not unwelcoming. The sequence, from the Locharbriggs red sandstone gable, through the 14th century Hornby Castle arch, which was part of the Burrell Collection, along the entrance hall axis to the naturally lit courtyard, with the Warwick Vase in the centre and into the main gallery, through another Hornby Castle archway into the main gallery, which is right up to the tree line, is beautifully considered.’
Patrick Lynch, founder of Lynch Architects, has also voiced his concerns about the consented scheme, branding it ‘ill-considered’.
In its response to the original planning application consultation, Claire Price, senior conservation adviser at The Twentieth Century Society, said the majority of the proposals were ‘necessary and acceptable’.
However, she questionned the addition of the new entrance, which she said would impact heavily on the Hutton Rooms.
Members of The Twentieth Century Society’s expert casework committee, she said, ‘concluded that The Hutton rooms are of the highest significance in terms of the architectural coherence of the building’.
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.
JMP won the commission last year, ahead of rival bids by Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, Dixon Jones, Reiach and Hall, Page\Park Architects and Hoskins Architects.
Both JMP and Glasgow Life, the community interest company backing the project and operates the museum, have been contacted for comment.
But in a letter seen by the BBC Paddy Pugh, director of conservation and planning at JMP, said he was sorry to hear of Meunier’s concerns.
He wrote: ‘We have the utmost respect for the building and have, as you know, taken a great deal of care to understand its design intent and significance.
’There is no doubt in our minds that The Burrell fully deserves its recognition and status as a Category A-listed building.’
Richard Marks, keeper of the collection and assistant director of Glasgow Museums between 1979 and 1985, now professor at the Department of the History of Art , University of Cambridge
’Externally the proposals do not look as drastic as I feared. However I’m concerned 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 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 Park – and that will not I suspect go away by tinkering with the exterior.’
Burrell Collection. Image by Finlay McWalter
Source: Image by Finlay McWalter