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Wright & Wright reveals new plans for Geffrye Museum revamp

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New images have been revealed of Wright & Wright’s £15 million proposals for the Geffrye Museum in Hackney, East London

The plans replace David Chipperfield Architects’ contentious scheme for the museum site which was refused planning back in May 2013 (AJ 02.05.13).

Chipperfield’s scheme would have seen a two-storey building added to the existing Grade I-listed museum and included the controversial demolition of a former pub at 32 Cremer Street. 

But Wright & Wright, which won the competition for the job ahead of Alison Brooks Architects, Haworth Tompkins, Pringle Richards Sharratt Architects and van Heyningen & Haward Architects (AJ 15.04.14), has proposed to retain the much-loved former pub which sits within the Kingsland Conservation Area, reusing it as a new café for the museum.

The plans will make changes to the interiors of the museum’s buildings while reordering and opening up the existing spaces.

Changes to the museum’s existing eighteenth century almshouses will increase space at the museum by 75 per cent from 2,000m² to 3,500m². The lower ground floor will be opened up to create a gallery with direct access to the Geffrye’s period gardens, while the first floor will be reinstated over the almshouses’ period rooms to provide space for a library.

The proposals also include two new pavilions – one at the entrance and another in the garden. The glass and timber garden pavilion will be used as an events and education space, and the brick entrance pavilion will give direct access from opposite Hoxton Station.

David Dewing, director of the Geffrye Museum, said: ‘We are excited with the scheme that Wright & Wright have created which will breathe life back into our almshouse buildings and safeguard the museum and collections for future generations. It benefits our audiences in Hackney and beyond and will be good for the local economy.

‘We have been working closely with Hackney Council, English Heritage and local community partners to develop the scheme, and have been thrilled with the support we’ve received so far. We want to encourage as many people to come along to the museum to see the plans and tell us what they think.’

The project will now have to clear the hurdle of getting an £11 million Heritage Lottery Fund grant before it is submitted for planning in 2016.

Wright & Wright’s proposals are on display at the Geffrye Museum for the next few months.

Wright&Wright's Geffrye Museum proposals

Interview with Clare Wright, director of Wright & Wright

What is special about the Geffrye Museum?
The museum of the home has a wonderful synergy. It has a magic quality which is intensely interesting.

What has been your approach to the project?
The building was built 300 years ago and converted into a museum 100 years ago. It has repeatedly undergone intervention. We are uncovering the layers of the building to create a holistic heritage experience.

The main conversions which were made 100 years ago only used a very small proportion of the building. They cut a route right through the basement of the building. They couldn’t have done it in a worse place.

We can’t just fix the building - we have to look at everything. The building really is at risk.

There are two languages to the Geffrye’s existing buildings – brick and timber. For the new garden pavilion we have used the glass and timber language used in Goodhart Rendell’s timber framed alteration, set apart from Branson Coates extension to the site. We wanted it to be like that at Louisiana Art Gallery [in Denmark] - a simple space from in which you perceive the outside.

We have also created a new walled entrance to the museum immediately accessible from the station. This sculpted brick wall will include another pavilion.

Both these new pavilions look to the new garden but don’t interfere visually with the almshouses.

Did you enter the competition the first time around?
We didn’t enter the competition the first time around. But the second time we were encouraged to by engineers and others that we work with. The engineers said it was right up our street and that we should have a go.

We benefitted from Chipperfield’s experience

Our approach is so different to Chipperfield’s design. We benefitted from his experience.

David Chipperfield said that the pub was too small and the height of the floor made it difficult to reuse. How have you got around this?
We’ve taken a different approach to the project [to David Chipperfield Architects]. What we find interesting is understanding the context of the site.

The building’s foundations are very deep. There are lots of level changes across the site. The basement is at natural ground level. The front of the building is made ground. So we are making use of this.

There is a lot of underutilised space at the museum. When we found there was so much space inside we realised we didn’t need to add things externally to the building.

Chipperfield’s plans received a lot of local opposition. How have you worked with the local community?
We can’t ignore that the plans to remove the pub were opposed by local people. The site is important to people and we have a responsibility to them. Everybody has been very welcoming of our approach.

It is important for the local community that the pub kept

We are reinterpreting the Victorian pub. It holds the corner. It is part of the history of the site. Over the years the surrounding Victorian streets have been swept away and replaced with the museum’s gardens. The pub is the only building which remains of that era. So it is important for the local community that this is kept.

People who love the building for what it is will find whole new aspects of the historic building which has been uncovered.

Previous story (AJ 15.04.14)

Wright & Wright wins Geffrye Museum job


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