Oxford Castle exhibition on lookout for designers

The search for exhibition designers to work on the curatorial aspects of the £30m, mixed-use Oxford Castle Heritage Project is due to begin later this month, following an award of £1.78m from Heritage Lottery fund this week.

The development of the historic site in the centre of Oxford involves the renovation of a Norman castle and a prison complex dating back to the 18th century, as well as the creation of retail and residential space and a 90-room Malmaison hotel, with interiors designed by Jestico & Whiles.

Oxford County Council and the Oxford Preservation Trust will operate a heritage centre to be housed in a Victorian prison wing, along with a new-build education facility. Architect Panter Hudspith is working on structural aspects, but exhibition designers will be required to create content.

DTZ Pieda director Chris Balch, who is acting as adviser to the Oxford Preservation Trust, says the intention is to hold a ‘limited competition’ among a small number of as-yet-unidentified consultancies ‘over the next month’. The budget for the heritage aspects of the scheme is £3.5m, he says.

According to Balch, the site encompasses a ‘complete record of the development of penal policy in the UK over 200 years’. This is expected to form the basis of any permanent exhibition, though temporary shows and a historical tour are also planned.

The project includes removal of a section of a listed prison wall that has cut off the area from the rest of the city for 250 years. Around ten bars and restaurants, nine upmarket apartments and 30 business units are envisaged by lead developer The Osborne Group.

Architects Dixon Jones and ADP are also working on the project, which The Obsborne Group hopes to complete in time for Christmas 2004.

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