The first images showing how Paisley Museum will become a world-class destination showcasing the stories of a Scottish town whose influence reached around the globe are today revealed.
The museum is undergoing a £42m transformation into a leading European museum telling the stories of Paisley’s people and Pattern, and home to its internationally-significant collections.
When it reopens in 2022, the reimagined museum is expected to draw audiences from Scotland, the UK and abroad – almost quadrupling visitor numbers to 125,000 a year.
And today sees the first reveal of images, showing how international architects AL_A – led by Stirling Prize winner Amanda Levete – plan to restore and reinvigorate the museum, including:
– fully accessible entrance courtyard and a dramatic red glazed entrance hall, creating a dynamic and inviting presence on the High Street and a contemporary face for the museum;
– a new wing to the west of the existing building providing step-free access through the museum up to the Coats Observatory (the oldest public observatory in Scotland), containing learning spaces and with views onto the new museum garden;
– an attractive outdoor garden, creating a new public space for the town, and opening up previously-hidden views of the observatory while reconnecting it and the museum to the town’s High Street;
– internal renovations will improve accessibility and circulation, deliver international environmental standards for gallery spaces, and allow the museum to more than double the number of objects on display to 1,200;
– an interactive weaving studio keeping alive the town’s traditional textile skills;
The renovated museum and library buildings will be in conversation with the new. Together they create a cohesive museum campus and a visitor experience of international quality.
The project is expected to create a £79m boost for the local economy over 30 years, with 138 jobs supported during construction, and 48.5 jobs per year through revenue and visitor spending.
Cllr Lisa-Marie Hughes, chair of Renfrewshire Leisure, said: “Few places of Paisley’s size can claim such global impact – the town created a global fashion icon, was once the centre of the world’s textile industry, and Paisley people have shaped the world for centuries with their creativity.
“The reopened museum will celebrate all of that and more, by using Paisley’s outstanding collections to retell the stories of those people, and give the world a reason to come back to Paisley.
“The museum is central to a wider investment in Paisley’s venues and outdoor spaces, embedding culture and events at the heart of how we are transforming our historic town centre and putting it back on the map as a destination.
“The beautiful images revealed today show how this wonderful historic building will at once be preserved and modernised, and ensure this proud symbol of Paisley’s past is at the heart of its future.”
Amanda Levete, principal of AL_A, said: “The brief for Paisley Museum is one of the most radical I’ve encountered. Paisley has a proud industrial past and a history of innovation and radical thinking. We have embedded this into our design to create an extraordinary place for the community of Paisley.”
Professor John Hume OBE, former Chair of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments Scotland, said: “I am thoroughly impressed by the thoughtful and sensitive approach of the architects to a remarkable group of buildings in a critical location for this unique place.
“At a time when there is a real risk of erosion of cultural experience, such interventions are of the utmost importance, and it is fitting Paisley should be at the forefront of what will be not just regeneration but also in the best sense, renaissance.”
The Paisley Museum Reimagined project includes Round One funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Scottish Government’s Regeneration Capital Grant Fund.
Paisley Museum was opened in 1871, designed by renowned Glasgow architect Sir John Honeyman. The building was gifted to the town by Sir Peter Coats of the Coats family, whose Paisley-based thread-making empire stretched around the world.
Renfrewshire’s collections are among the best in Scotland and include the world’s largest collection of Paisley shawls and pattern books, artwork from the world-renowned Glasgow Boys, one of Scotland’s best collections of studio ceramics, and a unique offering of mediaeval manuscripts dating back to before the Reformation.
The project is being co-designed in partnership with the community – the project team have already worked with hundreds of local people and groups to capture and help tell their stories.
The museum transformation is the flagship project within Renfrewshire Council’s £100m investment in venues and outdoor spaces aimed at using Paisley’s unique and internationally-significant cultural and heritage story to transform the area’s future.
The programme includes turning Paisley Town Hall into a landmark entertainment venue to preserve its place at the heart of life in the town, and finding new cultural uses for former retail units – including a new learning and cultural hub offering library services at the heart of the town’s High St.
Paisley’s collections remain available to the public while the work is happening – at Paisley: The Secret Collection, the only publicly-accessible museum store on a UK high street.