RIBA Awards, Scotland

Architectural inspiration for gallery refurbishment is a work of art in itself!

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McManus Galleries in Dundee
McManus Galleries in Dundee

Page\Park Architects have won national recognition by RIBA for design excellence in a project to refurbish the historic Grade 1 Listed McManus Galleries in Dundee, built by George Gilbert Scott in 1867.

Housed in a splendid Gothic Revival-style building and displaying Dundee’s main collection, the galleries are managed and operated by Dundee City Council’s Leisure and Communities Department.McManus Galleries in Dundee

The project was carried out for Dundee City Council by Muirfield Contractors. The display design was undertaken by Campbell and Co., Edinburgh. The appointed Heritage Consultants were ABL Cultural Consulting, London.

The refurbishment was funded by Dundee City Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the European Union and Historic Scotland, with additional contributions from The McManus Fundraising Appeal.McManus Galleries in Dundee

Voted Dundee’s best loved building in 2000, The McManus has been at the heart of art and culture in the city since its opening in 1867 – when it was then known as the Albert Institute for Science, Literature and the Arts.

Over the years, the building has been beset by problems, owing to the fact that it has been built on land which was formerly marshland, immediately north of the old city walls of Dundee.

It was renamed ‘McManus Galleries’ in the mid 1980s in recognition of Maurice McManus OBE, twice Lord Provost of Dundee who championed works during the period which stabilised the building.McManus Galleries in Dundee

However by 2000, it was clear that more work would be needed, and to provide a truly modern museum experience, a decision was taken to completely restore the building and its services with a focus on how it functions and how best to provide an accessible service to the visiting public.

“The basic premise of the works was to open up the building and take out as much of the clutter which had accumulated over the past 100-odd years, and to peel back the building to what it was originally intended to be” said Mr Justin Fenton of Page\Park Architects.

“Offices in the top storey of the building were re-located and supports from the gallery areas were removed to open up the internal space” he added.

 An important element of the project was the creation of a new south entrance off the newly pedestrianised Meadowside and the addition of a new retail area, in a move designed to re-energise the south entrance elevation and visually tie the building back into the city. A new civic space was also created around the exterior of the building.McManus Galleries in Dundee

 Beautiful new open gallery spaces with state-of-the-art displays and interactive exhibits were created and a new top-lit atrium was also installed, together with a new vertical circulation core with a lift and a spectacular staircase, plus a Creative Learning Suite, with the latest equipment for workshops and classes.

“We created a new axis with the building’s southern entrance which lines up with the northern entrance and we created a new vertical circulation core which balanced with the original Gilbert Scott circulation staircase” said Mr Fenton.

Other works included the complete renewal of heating, lighting, ventilation and electrical fixtures; the underpinning of the building to provide stable foundations; the repair and re-pointing of all stonework; the re-slating of all roofs and turrets and the restoration of the leadwork on the finials, which are a defining feature of the architecture of the building.

The project has brought the 143 year-old facility into the 21st century and provides a greatly improved visitor experience and a ‘must see’ attraction in the heart of the City and Tayside.

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