A new lease of life
The Burrell Collection is described as ‘one of the most remarkable assemblages of works of art ever brought together by one man’. It features rare medieval stained glass, ancient Chinese ceramics, Islamic carpets and French paintings. Gifted by Sir William Burrell, it is one of the most extraordinary gifts ever bestowed on a city. The collection is housed in a modernist masterpiece, known as one of Scotland’s finest examples of post-war architecture, and nestled in Pollock Country Park. On opening in 1983, the Burrell Collection was a milestone in the city’s reinvention into a centre of culture.
But 30 years later, the Burrell Collection faced significant challenges. The building was no longer fit for purpose, water threatened the collections, accessibility was substandard and visitor numbers were declining. The collection was at risk of becoming almost forgotten about by the city.
At one with its surroundings
Glasgow Museums had a bold, ambitious vision to create the most accessible and beautiful fine and decorative arts museum in the world. We were appointed to bring this vision to life. This marked our third time working with Glasgow Museums following our success at both the Kelvingrove and the Riverside Museums. We assembled a consultant team of architects, engineers, access consultants and audience specialists to pool our expertise and create a powerful masterplan and funding bid. As a result, the museum was awarded £16 million funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, their largest award to date.
Our design takes inspiration both from the beautiful country park setting and the modernist architectural context. The physical building becomes more permeable, letting the outside in. New entrances, a piazza, outdoor café and events spaces deliberately dissolve the boundary between the museum and park. The colour palette is influenced by the interplay between earth and stone while original architectural fragments become features of the gallery space.
A universal inheritance
Accessibility was at the heart of our interpretative approach. The artefacts are treated as more than just beautiful objects for elite entertainment: they become portals to unlock stories of their origins and journeys. Who made them? What historical events have they borne witness to? How have they come to be in Glasgow? Visitors are brought into Sir William Burrell’s world of collecting as his voice becomes an interpretive thread running through the displays. For the first time, we opened up two new floors of gallery space and made 90% of the collections accessible, compared to just 20% before.
John McAslan + Partners