HLF funding enabled RAMM to fulfil its dream of making its wonderful Victorian building fit for the 21st century. The new development addresses major structural weaknesses and treats the building as a single unit for the first time in its 140 year history. The project also aimed to increase exhibition and circulation space, reorganise the garden area to the north and organise the museum spaces clearly and logically with simple legible routes.
With their modern innovative design and wide experience working with historic buildings, internationally renowned architects practice, Allies and Morrison, was a natural choice. Allies and Morrison were appointed in 2003.
Lead architect, Richard White
Richard White is passionate about the project:
On new interpretations
“The new designs have many interlinked layers. They link the five earlier phases of development, they link the older build to the new, the road to the gardens and the museum to the Roman wall.
“The new work responds to the original intent, using compatible techniques and materials wherever possible. The newly designed areas, however, follow a modern idiom which contrasts with the elaborate, ornamented Victorian designs. The new and old are kept distinct but they share a common structure.
“New building work reflects the hierarchy of the old; the bath stone cladding at the garden entrance recalling the ashlar limestone window tracery, the oak cladding recalling the rough-hewn infill. Except in public areas, even the new wall linings are kept distinct from the old walls and all the newly enclosed spaces along the spine route are still top lit with natural light. The new simple bath stone walling of the pavilion folly and the wooden façade contrast with the decorated Victorian frontage”
On the basic design
“Access has been a key consideration in the redesign; both physical and intellectual. To improve physical access, for example, local level differences on each floor have been miminised and both marching steps and a ramp will lead to the garden entrance.
“A newly created route, aptly named the Spine, is key to circulation through and around the museum. This paved route follows the underlying geology [the base rock is red weathered lava basalt], in both its level and gradient. It joins the granite pavement in Queen Street through a series of open spaces and a new flight of stairs to the garden entrance and beyond. A first floor primary route mirrors the spine below. The bedrock and geology of the area can be seen in both the adjacent Roman wall and in the Victorian walls.”
On the secondary circulation
“Secondary circulation routes flow from the spine and, following the hierarchy of materials, these secondary routes have wooden floors. Tertiary areas have vinyl flooring. The new entrances along the primary routes have clean-cut reveals, contrasting with the old ornate archways that signify the secondary routes.”
On the new parkland setting
“The garden entrance will transform the area behind the museum into an attractive public area. There will be a natural amphitheatre overlooking a square six-metre granite mat between the new entrance and the Roman wall. A bridge from the entrance foyer will lead to a viewing platform on the Roman wall which looks out over Northernhay Gardens and the city. It will be connected to Rougemont Gardens by a large opening in the separating wall; fenced but with a lockable gate.