Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
Mshed Bristol Museum in England by LAB Architecture Studio
July 13th, 2011 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: LAB Architecture Studio
“M Shed is a fitting tribute to all the people who have helped shape the city’s history. I share the pride of local people who see this new museum as a bold statement of who we are, where we have come from, what we have achieved and our optimism and enthusiasm for the future.”
The new Museum of Bristol, M-Shed, is positioned on the waterfront adjacent to the city’s commercial centre and emerging cultural and leisure facilities. M-Shed completes the regeneration of the city’s historic docks. Funded by Bristol City Council and a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, M Shed takes over the Prince’s Wharf dockfront site formerly the home of the Bristol Industrial Museum before it closed in 2006.
Housed in a refurbished steel-framed cargo shed, the twostorey industrial building was originally completed in 1951. Design Architect David Racz – “The challenge has very much been how to utilise this existing historical framework to create a relevant contemporary museum that provides a high quality museum environment.”
Significant consideration has been given to respecting the industrial heritage of the existing building and site without compromising the operation of a modern museum. The main exhibition areas utilise the dramatic warehouse spaces, integrating the required environmental services and lighting in a sympathetic way. An additional second floor has been added which houses a function space and a temporary gallery.
Central to the project has been the creation of two dramatic foyer spaces: the West Foyer and the Main Foyer. These two distinctly different spaces will act as orientation spaces for visitors, as well as break out spaces and additional exhibition spaces. They provide breathtaking views out over Bristol, taking full advantage of the extraordinary location of the museum.
When compared to similar projects in size and aspiration, the budget for this project was extremely tight from the outset, even without the conservation requirements. The project has achieved a good balance between quality and cost and will make a significant contribution to the city. Julie Finch, Head of Museums and Archives – “(M Shed) builds on Bristol’s great heritage to bring experts and the community together in the joint endeavour of building a new narrative for the city. I hope M Shed will become a destination for the understanding and celebration of the history of Bristol and its people and a vibrant learning resource for the future, open to all.”
LAB Architecture Studio, established in London in 1994, is a progressive, internationally renowned practice, dedicated to innovative and inspiring architecture and urban design born of a project methodology placing emphasis on projectwide group participation and collaboration and iterative processes. LAB operates across numerous continents and time zones, from a home base in Melbourne, with regional offices in Shanghai, Dubai and London. The practice is led by the founding directors, Donald Bates and Peter Davidson, and supported by an experienced group of senior associates and associates.
LAB has been or is involved in projects in Australia, Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. Projects range in scale and scope from cultural + civic buildings, urban design, sustainable urban masterplanning, specialist interior fit-outs to campus + high-rise office buildings, commercial + retail centres, individual villas + mass housing and institutional + educational facilities. The completed and proposed projects of LAB are published in more than 70 different international magazines, journals and books, testifying to the influence and visibility of the designs of LAB.
The museum is housed in a two storey refurbished steel-framed cargo shed, originally built in 1951. We have given significant consideration to respecting the industrial heritage of the existing building and the site. The challenge has very much been how to utilise this existing historical framework to create a relevant contemporary museum that provides a high quality museum environment.
Located on the quayside of Bristol’s historic Floating Harbour, one of the UK’s great seaports, the museum site is in the very heart of Bristol. The building provides an historic backdrop to a unique collection of industrial moving objects including cranes, steam trains and boats. The existing building is really two sheds joined mid way to create a 190 metre long structure, but only 22 metres wide. Its form is very specific to its original function; a transit shed for temporarily storing goods that were being loaded on and off ships. Projecting from the North façade is a loading platform onto which goods were craned.
The sliding doors on the North façade are a fantastic feature of the original building. We carried out a detailed survey that revealed extensive weather damage from corrosion and dents. Many could not be opened. These doors have now been carefully restored, and where necessary replica doors have been fabricated. Many of the doors have been motorised – they will open and close each day with the museum just as they used to when the transit shed was in operation.
It was a conscious decision to leave the concrete frame exposed as it was in the original building. Together with other planning requirements it meant that the ability to signify a change to the building was limited. We chose to paint the doors a strong red colour after researching the history of the building and the colours that had been used previously in the local archives. The very nature of the façade is an undifferentiated repetitive frame, yet it was important to create an entrance that was visibly inviting, both from across the harbourside and on the oblique approach on the quayside. The entrance was probably our most radical intervention, formed by demolishing a column and part of the loading platform and inserting an inclined two storey glazed foyer.
The façade works at two scales. The scale of the harbourside, where the entrance is clearly visible from across the harbour, although the building appears as a low two storey. But the size is still deceptive and its not until one is on the quayside, in front of the building, that the height of the floors and the size of the doors can be fully appreciated. The approach on the quayside is another reason for the foyer setback and entrance being two bays wide. The quayside is narrow and so visitors approach the entrance at a very oblique angle. It takes the two bays of inclined glazing plus another glazing bay for the adjacent shopfront to clearly and confidently indicate the entrance to the new museum from this angle.
The South & West façades were originally filled with blockwork and corrugated metal sheets and were generally considered as the ‘back’ of the building. We wanted to provide a new identity to these elevations as an alternative museum front while preserving its industrial character. These façades have been clad in glass planks that emphasise the verticality and give a module appropriate to the scale of the building.
We have chosen glass planks with three degrees of transparency. On the emergency stairs the planks are wire reinforced and clear, providing views to the South. On the plant rooms and train shed we have also used transparent glass planks so that the trains and the machinery in the plant rooms are visible, helping to activate the façade and to give alternative frontage to the building. Elsewhere on the façade we have used opaque sand blasted glass planks in front of the climatic wall. Where required, the pressed metal planks and grills are used to keep the same vertical module throughout these two façades.
We have treated the sliding doors and the glass planks as rainscreens, behind which is a composite panel climatic wall. This provides the museum with the necessary insulation in order to create the close control museum environment. Central to LAB’s design has been the creation of two dramatic foyer spaces: the West Foyer and the Main Foyer. These two distinctly different spaces act as orientation spaces as well as break-out spaces for visitors. They can also become additional exhibition spaces. Each foyer contains a feature staircase which creates a different experience for the visitor whether ascending or descending. They provide breathtaking views out over Bristol, taking full advantage of the extraordinary location of the museum.
Both the foyer spaces are central to the way the public circulates through the building and provide great flexibility to the client as to how the building can be used. The Main Foyer is both the main entrance and the main address of the museum. This dynamic three storey space can be conceived as an event space for openings and celebrations, and also can be opened after hours for access to the function rooms on the third floor. The staircase allows many opportunities to pause and linger and take advantage of the views, both out over Bristol and across the space. Glass panels have been introduced in the balustrades to provide the opportunity to enjoy the dramatic views from different eye levels.
The West Foyer is a smaller, more intimate circulation space that permits further flexibility in the way the museum can be used. The café can be combined with the foyer and the first floor gallery, creating another potential event space with a panoramic window overlooking the harbour. It can also operate independently of the museum. The staircase draws visitors up and terminates below a rooflight. The experience descending on the other hand reveals the distinctive views over the harbourside.
A highly efficient and sustainable displacement air handling system provides a stable and close-controlled museum environment in the galleries, while keeping many of the original beams exposed. When compared to similar projects in size and aspiration, the budget for this project was extremely tight from the outset, even without the conservation requirements. We believe the project achieved a good balance between quality and cost and hope that the building will make a significant contribution to the city.
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