Proposals by five rival teams for a £20 million overhaul of Perth’s long-disused Category B-listed city hall have been unveiled
The visions – drawn up by Austin-Smith:Lord with MVRDV, Hoskins Architects, LDN, Mecanoo and Richard Murphy Architects – feature in a public exhibition in Perth Civic Hall opening today (12 June) and closing on 24 June.
The winner of the RIAS-organised competitive interview process will transform the abandoned 1914 landmark into a visual arts centre hosting local collections, touring exhibitions and potentially the historic Stone of Destiny.
The project for Perth and Kinross Council is planned to start on site in 2019, ending decades of uncertainty over the Renaissance-style building, which was formerly earmarked for demolition to make way for a new civic plaza.
According to the original contest announcement: ‘Perth and Kinross Council and its partners, Culture Perth and Kinross, are embarking on an exciting programme of capital developments to enhance and develop the cultural offer within the region.
‘The proposed £20 million redevelopment of the Perth City Hall with its central location in the heart of the city will deliver a world-class visitor experience attracting a significant uplift in visitors to the area from across Scotland, the UK and internationally which will contribute to the growth of the regional economy.’
The city-centre landmark was designed by Glasgow-based HE Clifford and Lunan. For more than 20 years it has been subject to various demolition proposals. The building was formerly used as a performance venue, but closed in 2005 after BDP completed its competition-winning Perth Concert Hall nearby.
After Historic Scotland vetoed demolition in 2012, attempts to transform the building into an indoor market hall also hit the buffers, and last year Perth and Kinross Council announced plans for a new visual arts centre as part of the historic city’s bid to become UK City of Culture 2021.
Nearby landmarks within the pedestrianised area which surrounds the city hall include the Category A-listed St John’s Kirk, which was built in stages between 1440 and around 1500 on the site of an earlier 12th-century church.
The announcement of the latest contest comes shortly after Hoskins Architects won a separate competition for a £10 million regeneration of the Perth Museum and Art Gallery nearby. Once complete, the two buildings will both host exhibitions exploring the history of Perth.
The city hall restoration project will deliver a new 1,500m² exhibition space for permanent and touring exhibitions alongside a 150m² learning suite, 250m² collections handling area and up to 275m² of commercial visitor facilities including a café and retail.
It is understood that the historic Stone of Destiny – an oblong block of red sandstone used during coronations – could also feature inside the new venue. The stone was last used at Elizabeth II’s coronation, and was relocated from Westminster Abbey to Edinburgh Castle in 1996. It could form the focus for a new visitor attraction in Perth.
Conceptual proposals by the five shortlisted teams will feature in an exhibition inside Perth Civic Hall from 12 to 24 June during which the public will be invited to comment on the designs. An overall winner expected to be announced by the end of the year.