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Purcell wins £3.25m Wordsworth Museum revamp job

Grasmere, Cumbria
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AJ100 practice Purcell and Nissen Richards Studio have been chosen for a £3.25 million overhaul of the Wordsworth Museum in Grasmere, Cumbria

The project will primarily refurbish and extend a Grade II-listed former coaching block which sits north of the Grade I-listed Dove Cottage (pictured), where the English Romantic poet penned some of his most influential works.

Purcell has been appointed architect for the ambitious revamp by client Wordsworth Trust while Nissen Richards Studio has been selected as interpretation designer.

The scheme, dubbed Reimagining Wordsworth, aims to entice new audiences to the Lake District landmark and deliver a more financially and environmentally sustainable future for the trust.

Purcell partner Robert Chambers commented: ‘Surrounded by the magnificent landscape which inspired Wordsworth, there is great opportunity to draw together the rich experiences of this internationally significant site, enhance the experience for visitors and engage new audiences.

‘Our challenge is to make the site work for today’s visitors, using sensitive conservation and contemporary design to ensure that we maintain the special quality of the place. Delivering these new facilities will help to inspire a new generation of visitors to engage with Wordsworth’s revolutionary words and themes.’

Nissen Richards Studio director Pippa Nissen added: ‘We are extremely excited to be working on this gem of a project. It includes different elements across the site, including the extraordinarily beautiful landscape and its relationship to the buildings as well as the poetry, as part of the experience.

‘The story of Reimagining Wordsworth is multi-layered, and we need to find a coherent voice to bring together a rich and complex subject. A wonderful challenge.’

Dove Cottage, in Town End on the outskirts of Grasmere, was home to Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy from December 1799 to May 1808.

The former Dove and Olive Branch public house was constructed in the early 17th century on the main road between Ambleside and Keswick, and features limewashed walls and a slate roof.

With no running water and only an outside toilet, the cottage allowed the poet to focus on ‘plain living, but high thinking’. The rustic home featured a simple interior and wild garden, and became a popular destination for influential writers.

After Wordsworth moved to a larger home nearby, the cottage was briefly occupied by the English essayist Thomas De Quincey. It was then purchased by the Wordsworth Trust in 1891 and transformed into a museum which today receives around 50,000 visitors every year.

In September, the trust announced it was seeking a ‘fresh, well detailed and sensitive’ vision to transform the mostly textual museum complex into a new ‘multisensory, multimedia and layered environment’.

The regeneration project will create a shop, reception area and public toilets by expanding the museum’s existing retail facilities across three cottages neighbouring the coaching block.

A first floor café, new administrative facilities, re-landscaped courtyard and enlarged car park will also be delivered, as well as measures to introduce more natural light to the historic building and improve views of the surrounding landscape. The project is scheduled to complete in 2020.

London-based cultural masterplanner Metaphor completed a RIBA Stage 1 study for the project four years ago. Purcell will develop the scheme up to RIBA Stage 7 following a successful Heritage Lottery Fund bid.


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