Friday, 26 March 2010

The Beaney Institute, Canterbury

In many ways The Beaney Institute typifies the requirements of an English Heritage Lottery funded project. The original Grade II Listed Building located in the centre of Canterbury was completed in 1894 for a local benefactor, Dr Beaney. It comprises a museum, art gallery and library. As was the case in the late nineteenth century, this cultural institution contained a number of large discrete public rooms for display and study with almost no other spaces for supporting activities. Over time the building has grown with ad hoc additions, but inevitably, the increasing needs of the community and ambitions of the institution have demanded an overhaul and major redevelopment. Following winning the commission in an OJEU promoted competition, our brief was to upgrade and preserve the Listed fabric, to provide full access for the disabled, to upgrade and extend the gallery spaces to meet twenty first century curatorial and lending requirements, to provide exhibition design and interpretation for the visitor, to extend and improve the lending library spaces, to provide educational spaces for schools and community use, to provide amenities such as café and WCs together with improved back of house accommodation and plant space. These objectives were facilitated by the Council acquisition of a pair of adjoining buildings, which together with the demolition of existing outbuildings in a rear public car park provided the necessary space for a large new extension fronting onto an adjacent road, Best Lane. The proposed plan develops a new fully accessible public entrance off Best Lane and leads through a two and a half storey top lit atrium to a central reception point, which is level with the existing building’s raised ground floor. This reception and new café area is also at the end of the existing main circulation route from the existing High Street entrance off which the new main lift and staircase link the upper levels. The new extension provides additional floor space for the public library at ground floor and enlarged mezzanine space, being spatially connected with light wells and accommodation staircases. Similarly, new gallery space is provided off the central atrium as an extension at the same level as existing galleries. The architectural language of the new build is in contrast to the existing, with the emphasis on articulated exposed structural soffits with integrated lighting and simple finishes within a red brick envelope, whereas the existing comprises heavy mouldings and ornate finishes internally, behind an eclectic and idiosyncratic Victorian Arts and Crafts façade. Sidell Gibson Architects are now preparing for the serious business of the commencement on site in March 2010. Watch this space.

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