Restoration specialist Purcell has worked up designs for a major refurbishment of Preston’s Harris museum, art gallery and library
The international practice, which has an office in Manchester, has developed plans to aid a formal bid for £4.7 million of Heritage Lottery Fund cash to update the 125-year-old institution.
Outline plans – developed in partnership with interpretive designers Leach Studio – include a central hub for activities on the ground floor; improved exhibition, event and meeting spaces; and a new entrance, stairway and lift opposite Preston Guild Hall.
The building would be designed to host community-led, interactive displays of books, art and historic objects telling the stories of Preston and Lancashire people.
About £3.6 million is already in place for the project from supporters including Lancashire County Council, Preston City Council, Arts Council England, and the Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal.
Charity Friends of the Harris has launched a fund-raising campaign, #HarrisYourPlace, to try to fill the gap to the £10.7 estimated total cost. A consultation has been launched over the outline designs, and the result of the Lottery Fund bid will be known in January.
If the project goes ahead, a new tender process will take place to find architectural and interpretive designers.
‘The existing designers and architects might be re-appointed or we might choose other companies,’ said a spokeswoman. ‘During the development period the current outline plans will be subject to substantial consultation with the public and other stakeholders before being worked up in fine detail by whichever architects/designers are chosen’.
Almost 1,000 people visit the Victorian-built Harris every day, but its owners, the council, say it is ‘tired’.
‘It needs critical repairs and refurbishment to ensure it is a welcoming and inspiring place for everyone, today and for the future,’ they said in a statement.
Preston City Council cabinet member for culture and leisure Peter Kelly added: ‘We have a one-in-100-year opportunity to make the Harris uniquely special again, for everyone, but we can only do it with the help of local people. Telling us what you want from the Harris and contributing to the campaign, if you can, will make all the difference.’
Purcell associate Laura Sherliker said: ‘Purcell’s brief from Preston City Council was to re-imagine the Harris. Through its redesign, creating better conditions for displays and storage and providing a more accessible pathway around the building, Purcell aims to revive this architecturally significant building and protect its vast and important collection with a people-centred approach.
’At its heart, the blending redesign creates an accessible cultural hub for Lancashire, reflecting the needs of the local economy – providing renewed opportunities for artists and craftspeople, families, students and under-represented audiences to access the building in a new way.’
Harris museum, art gallery and library October 2017