The Higgins

Combining three buildings to create a new, single museum.

Cecil Higgins Art Gallery and Bedford Museum
Completed 2014
Exterior view of a museum

Buttress was appointed by Bedford Council as architects and design team leader to develop the strategy for the refurbishment of the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery and Bedford Museum along with the integration with the newly refurbished Bedford Gallery - turning three separate facilities into a new, joint destination with a new, single, identity.

Working together with the exhibition designers and the museum board, we created a new masterplan. This identified new gallery spaces with exhibition ideas, optimal visitor routes, and ensured that other concerns such as flexibility, maintenance and commercial potential were taken into consideration.

Museum exhibition space
Children looking into a museum exhibition case

Key to the success of the project was not only the physical redevelopment of the buildings and spaces, but the creation of a new interpretation strategy developed from close collaboration between exhibition designer and architect.

A less is more approach enabled the creation of clean, fuss-free galleries that function well, and flow one to the other with ease. Some of the galleries were planned to be flexible, so that exhibitions could change frequently and quickly. Space was also created for community exhibitions and places where families can relax, or where staff and experts could meet with audiences.


Children playing in a museum exhibition

Other accommodation created included improved learning spaces for families and schools, including study areas for students and researchers, a 100-cover café with courtyard seating, new toilets, and locker storage areas.  In addition, a new two storey archive and storage wing, designed to meet national standards of environment control, was created to help manage the museum’s collection.

In combining these three historic buildings, the finished Higgins museum has strengthened the presentation and interpretation of the historic and cultural importance of the area to those who live, work, shop locally, while acting as engines of regeneration within the town.

Image credits

Jim Stephenson ©

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