A design scheme that is set to raise the profile of Kent’s Maidstone Museum & Bentlif Art Gallery is a step further to being realised this week, after a £2m earmarked grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The funding is a major leap forward in the progression of plans for the museum’s redevelopment, which its management hopes will reposition it as a venue of national importance. The team working on the project includes museum design specialist Ralph Appelbaum Associates and Hugh Broughton Architects. Hugh Broughton Architects, which won a Royal Institute of British Architects’ competition to develop the museum’s east wing last January, has been given a brief to increase accessibility to its 600 000-strong collection by 30 per cent, improve archive storage and increase the visibility of the museum as a national brand.
The project, which is scheduled to start late next year, will see two extensions added to the museum and a reorganisation of its existing space and storage, as well as a new entrance and orientation area for visitors. There are also plans for a retail space – including a shop and café – using a previously unseen Tudor facade, while Maidstone’s tourist office will be relocated to the museum.
Ralph Appelbaum Associates will focus on the interior design, multimedia, graphic design and content development for the orientation area and Japanese decorative arts collection, tipped to be a showcase collection for the museum. A new, large-scale installation ‘looking at the depth and breadth of the range, that will help visitors understand the museum’s offering as well as orientation’ is in planning, according to Phillip Tefft, director of Ralph Appelbaum’s London office. Gianluca Rendina, director of Hugh Broughton Architects, explains that the way the building has evolved since it was built in 1565 has influenced the design for the east wing.
‘The nature of the building is eclectic and it has developed and evolved over time. There is a major contrast between the Tudor and Victorian styles. We thought it made sense to add a 21st century style to the mix,’ says Rendina.
The modern style will feature cladding made from a copper and gold alloy – described as a ‘metal shingle that overlaps’.
MIXING THE OLD WITH THE NEW
• The museum is located in an Elizabethan manor house, but the building had subsequent extensions in 1700, 1868, 1873, 1899 and 1928
• It houses more than 600 000 artefacts and specimens covering subjects such as biology, geology and ancient Egyptian history
• Funding for the redevelopment of the gallery is coming from Maidstone Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund
• The museum has opted for a sustainable building design, with a ground heat pump and solar panels
• The east wing is scheduled to open in autumn 2009