Burrell Collection secures planning consent for ambitious £66m refurbishment

By Adrian Murphy. Main Image: External view of the Burrell Collection courtesy of John McAslan + Partners

The Burrell Collection has been granted planning permission and listed building consent by Glasgow City Council – Development and Regeneration Services for the comprehensive refurbishment of the museum

The redevelopment of the Burrell Collection, which began in October and is set for completion in 2020, includes optimising spaces and visitor circulation throughout the museum and will open up for the first time all three floors of the building. These include the basement stores, allowing much more of the collection (only 20 per cent had been on show before the redevelopment) to be displayed and enjoyed by visitors.

Work to transform the Grade A listed building will also see the creation of a dedicated space for special exhibitions and the conversion of offices into galleries. By capitalising on its unique setting in the surroundings of Pollok Country Park, landscaped terraces and civic space will also forge connections between the museum and the outdoors.

In addition to increasing accessibility to the collection, the roof of the building will also be completely overhauled with refurbishment plans transforming the Burrell into an exemplar of sustainability.

The planning decision follows the recent approval by Glasgow City Council for funding of up to £27.3m toward the cost of the £66m refurbishment of the museum and redisplay of the collection. The Heritage Lottery Fund has pledged £15m to the project and the government has also committed £5m. A fundraising campaign is currently underway with a target of raising a further £15m.

John McAslan, Executive Chairman of John McAslan + Partners, architects on the project said: The scheme has been shaped by the need to address the strains on the current building, by a need to respond to the works held in the collection, and by a desire to contribute further to the Burrell’s unique setting of Pollok Country Park.

The collection, donated to the City of Glasgow by shipping merchant Sir William Burrell in 1944, is representative of his lifelong passion for art and history. Part of reason for the donation was for the collection be housed in a suitable building that would protect it from damage and pollution. Its current home in Pollock Park was found in the 1960s but in recent years the building was deemed no longer fit for purpose following the closure of a number of galleries due to the danger of damage to objects and paintings posed by water ingress.

The Burrell Collection is a major cultural asset for the City of Glasgow and the nation, and is of international significance. The collection numbers almost 9,000 items and has a rich and varied scope, ranging from ancient prehistoric artefacts to ground-breaking works by Impressionists such as Manet and Degas. Its particular strengths lie in late medieval art, Chinese ceramics, bronzes and jades, Islamic pile carpets and French nineteenth-century paintings.

“The integration between collection and building is what makes the Burrell so unique,” said James Alexander, Chief Executive of Event Communications. “By optimising and opening up new display spaces, the scheme will enhance the visitor experience and radically improve public access to its stunning collection.”

Throughout the Burrell’s refurbishment an exhibition of works from the Burrell will be on display at Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum. An international tour has also taken place, the first time any of the collection has been outside Glasgow, which raised the collection’s profile worldwide.