The Great North Museum
The GNM in Newcastle represents a newly opened and successful £26m [part HLF funded] museum, bringing together the North East’s premier collections of archaeology, natural history and geology. The project sits within Farrells Cultural Quarter Masterplan occupying a prominent site on the Great North Road. Farrells brief was to address its setting in relation to the city, the limited exhibition space, reinterpret a varied collection and unsuitable environmental conditions. The redesigned galleries of the Grade 2* listed building, expose collections and areas previously hidden. The plan layout with new openings and outside views; open up the museum improving circulation and providing a fully accessible attraction. A new extension building compliments and contrasts the existing Hancock Museum in form and use and provides facilities appropriate to a modern 21st century museum and gallery. Contrast is achieved through the use of modern materials and detailing, and the bold use of accent colours. The vision to achieve the above is set out within Farrells 10 point vision below; A New Public Space for Cultural and Heritage Activity The Great North Museum sits in a park like setting with new and mature landscape largely consisting of Northumbrian species. The open and expansive front lawn provides an appropriate setting for the fine Victorian front to the museum and will provide a space for public and cultural activities for the city, for the university and the museum. At other times it will be a quiet and contemplative place. A Northumbrian Landscape Setting Landscape with mature trees wrap the museum enhancing the view between the inside galleries and external landscaping. Northumbrian flora and landscape form a large part of the museum and library content. This is used to derive modern fresh colour schemes for the building. Rooms connecting with the landscape externally use soft greens. Bright colour accents, derived from Northumbrian flowers, are used for external window mullions and in washrooms - contrasting against the greens in a playful natural way. Conserve and Revive the Built Heritage The Hancock Museum is much loved by Newcastle. The GNM project enables the appropriate conservation, re-use and revival of the Grade 2* listed building, whilst retaining the historic Hancock collections. Outside: stone facade repaired with light touch retaining strong aged feel; windows reconditioned and painted dark to contrast with soft colour of the sandstone, enhancing vertical rhythms of stone pilasters to façade; roof repaired and replaced using heritage techniques and materials. Inside: stone stairwells repaired, cleaned and enhanced to 21st century access standards; timber doors repaired; lay lights to galleries refurbished and modern lighting integrated to replicate original day lit qualities of spaces; lime plaster work repaired and painted with breathable membranes. A Clear Mental Map – Gallery Intervention and Rezoning Large new openings of diminishing size sit along a central axial route through the main galleries, new galleria, street café and special exhibition – to a new front door opening directly to the university; cross views from side galleries through central galleries to the outside link the interior with exterior - providing for orientation and contrast - visual and mental; the new extension pulls away from the existing building creating a multi functional galleria space and positive new entrance points for the societies, large groups and special exhibition visitors. The GNM is zoned with retail and hospitality to the front spaces and galleria; circulation is ordered about the existing four stone stairs and new galleria stair; education, special exhibition and society spaces are stacked vertically through the new extension. Co-locate the Cultural Assets The GNM brings together the collections of The Hancock Museum, the Shefton Museum and the Museum of Antiquities with local societies. This co-location of cultural assets as a single, visible and legible entity makes them and their associated cultural heritage accessible. Conserve, Display and Interpret the Collections The GNM improves the conservation, display and interpretation of the combined collections. The new and transformed permanent display celebrates a continuing history of public engagement with access to all of the collections - concentrated within the Hancock Museum galleries, cleared of the accretions of 120 years to reveal the original spaces, purpose built for the Hancock collections. A New 21st Century Building The new extension building compliments and contrasts the existing Hancock Museum in form and use; they are separated visually and physically by a double height glazed ‘galleria’ allowing the identity and form of each to read strongly and provide an appropriate scale against the closely neighbouring large scale university buildings.  The new building contextually derives its form, size and elemental composition from the Hancock building: form and size from the volume of the existing central gallery; strong horizontal datums and vertical rhythms transfer from the existing building across to the new building.  A New Special Exhibition Gallery and Education Centre A new temporary exhibition gallery provides the GNM and Newcastle with a unique space and place for display, performance and celebration. It provides a secure and environmentally controlled space for internationally significant collections to be displayed; 480sqm and over 5m tall with high floor loadings and movable partition walls. It can be closed off from the main galleries; used as ‘black box’ or under day lit conditions.  A New Home for the Societies – Library and Offices The GNM brings together the Society of Antiquities and Natural History Society of Northumbria in a new centre with office space and a public library with archive facilities accommodating their most prominent collections. New Public Spaces and Hospitality The GNM refurbishes and creates new public spaces and provides new hospitality throughout the GNM. A new external ramp and platform lift with new internal lifts and flush thresholds ensure the whole building is accessible to the public. The GNM opened to unprecedented acclaim taking 50,000 visitors within the first week alone; it was covered by the BBC with articles published in local and National papers and branded advertising throughout the city. The Architects Journal is publishing an in depth feature on the project. Exhibition.designer.Casson.Mann


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Building Activity

  • OpenBuildings
    OpenBuildings added a digital reference
    about 6 years ago via
  • added a digital reference
    about 6 years ago via
  • Phil_Lloyd
    Phil_Lloyd commented
    I had the pleasure of working on this project as the conservation architect. Fantastic to bring new life to a great building and museum!
    about 7 years ago via iPhone