A planning application has been submitted for a £10.7m National Lottery Heritage Fund project to revitalise Preston’s Grade I listed Harris museum, library and art gallery.
The scheme aims to preserve the fabric of the Victorian building as well as deliver a new vision for the Harris as both a community hub and world-class cultural resource fit for the 21st century.
The proposal brings together architectural and exhibition design to maximise the Harris' offer. Key to achieving this is improving 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 will be considerably enhanced.
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 will reverse issues of water ingress and improve future maintenance.
The external loggia to Lancaster Road is being repurposed to house the circulation core. 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.
The proposals have been informed by the Conservation Plan produced by our 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, to understand the challenges they face, and their aspirations for the building’s future.
Neal Charlton, director at Buttress, said: "The Harris has been at the centre of civic and cultural life in Preston for more than 125 years. This project will enhance the role the building plays in the community allowing it to reach new and more diverse audiences, while encouraging visitors to connect with its important collections in new ways."
Cllr Peter Buckley, cabinet member for community and cultural services at Lancashire County Council, said: “It is hugely important for Lancashire that The Harris maintains its central role within our county’s rich heritage. Reaching such a major milestone for our iconic attraction is very positive news for Lancashire’s cultural economy.”