The Harris Museum, Art Gallery & Library

Evolution of the Harris to create a space for everyone.

Preston City Council
Heritage Consultancy

Opening to the public in 1893, the Grade 1 listed Harris Museum, Art Gallery & Library has been a home for world-class culture, exhibitions, and collections, and cherished space for the local community, for over 125 years.

‘Harris Your Place’ is a £16million NLHF-funded project to restore and reimagine the Harris for 21st-century audiences as a community, cultural and learning space.

close up the harris 3D model with trees and visitors made out of wood

Harris Your Place is an evolution of the existing Art Gallery, Museum and Library to create an innovative environment that presents the various offers in a flexible, engaging and equitable manner. Using the magnificent architecture as the backdrop creates an opportunity to create something unique and specifically of the Harris.

Key to achieving the aims of Harris Your Place are improvements to the permeability and accessibility of the building. By accentuating the entrance to Lancaster Road, introducing a new internal lift and staircase, and introducing a new changing places facility on the ground floor, accessibility to the wider public is considerably enhanced.

3D model of the harris with wooden texture
exposed interior of 3D model of the harris with wooden texture

The architecture internally is celebrated, opening up the volumes of galleries and removing elements previously inserted that detract from the significance of the building. Restoration and repair to the building fabric will reverse issues of water ingress and improve future maintenance.

The proposals are thoroughly informed by the Conservation Plan produced by the Buttress Heritage Consultancy team. The plan outlines the history and significance of the Harris, and captures the issues and opportunities that face it. This is based on consultation with staff from across the organization,

We undertook an update to the conservation plan collaborating with students at UCLan to give them valuable experience and insight into the Heritage Consultant role. Alongside our team, students helped us to document the spaces within the museum and to collate the gazetteer. We also ran a series of workshops with staff across the museum including curators, maintenance and administrative staff to understand the challenges they face, and their aspirations for the building’s future. 

exterior of the harris
interior of the harris gallery corridor with distinctive paintings

Responding to the original

The Harris is a landmark, drawing visitors to Preston from far and wide. It sits on the edge of the Flag Market overlooking it with its raised plinth and imposing pediment and classic sculptures. The neo-classical design of the building reflects 19th century ideas and attitudes. The Victorians felt that if classical art and architecture were viewed by the public it would have an uplifting and moralising impact. Central to this are the simplicity, symmetry of plan, truthfulness of expression and refinement of detail.

The Harris Your Place project challenged Buttress to improve accessibility whilst respecting the intent and significance of the grade I listed building. The external loggia to Lancaster Road is being repurposed to house the circulation core. A number of options were investigated and consulted upon. The proposals create an infill with a fretwork finish. This is intended as a contemporary and complementary response to the original architecture. The Internal remodelling will allow for increased blending of museum, library and gallery spaces, creating additional facilities for children and young people and enabling more of the Harris' extensive collections to be displayed.

samantha knights at the harris holding paperwork
interior of the harris with various exhibits and artefacts

The new offer

The aim of the project is to provide an innovative environment in which museum, library and art gallery collections and services are fused to provide a flexible and community-led offer, allowing the Grade I listed building and its collections to be presented more effectively.

The Art Gallery, Museum, and Library spaces are presented with mixed-mode use for various spaces. Working closely with exhibition designers Ralph Applebaum Associates, the gallery cases and new interior fittings are bespoke designs that reference the classical proportions of the rooms and the architectural character of the building. The new offer also spills out of the galleries and into the main central space that rises through the four stories of the building to the lantern tower, activating the whole building.

A new café, shop and events spaces will generate increased income to support the future running of the Harris. There are a wide range of proposals to make the building more accessible - including a new changing places toilet.

A temporary gallery is created to GIS Standards which improves the ability to host new and exciting exhibitions. 

interior of the harris with paintings on the walls of gallery
interior foyer area of the harris looking up at large open ceiling
Meet our team