Extensive works across the gallery over 20 years
Opened in 1885, the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (BMAG) has a collection of international importance and is housed in the Grade II* listed Council House complex in the centre of Birmingham.
Associated Architects has developed a long-standing relationship with the institution, completing a number of important projects within BMAG itself and at other community sites belonging to Birmingham Museums Trust.
The original Waterhall was designed in 1881 by Yeoville Thomason as an extension to his 1874 Council House building. It provided an impressive ground floor banking hall for Birmingham Corporation’s public water supply, with the museum and gallery on the first floor above. In 2001 we rationalised this historic anomaly by converting the Waterhall to provide the first addition to BMAG’s permanent space since 1912. Facing the Gas Hall and Chamberlain Square, it houses the Modern British collection and other temporary exhibitions.
The fine Victorian interior, compromised by later additions, has been carefully restored. Unlike a typical “blind white box” gallery, generous original windows and natural light are retained and filtered by four layers of adjustable solar louvres and blinds. These allow dim environments for light-sensitive exhibits, but retain the option of generous natural daylight and views out where appropriate, for instance for orientation and interpretation areas or for sculpture shows.
In 2010 we were commissioned to renovate and reinstate further gallery spaces. Architectural works include the restoration of the building fabric to its original condition (much of which had been concealed), the provision of new toilet provision and ancillary areas and the sensitive integration of enhanced mechanical and electrical services. Insensitive post-war alterations have been unpicked and rectified, including the stripping out of false ceilings, floor coverings and wall linings to reveal the original features.
Discovered in the 2000s, the Staffordshire Hoard is the most important Anglo Saxon treasure ever discovered in the UK and upon being acquired jointly by Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and the Stoke Museums in 2010, we were commissioned to restore two galleries which were to house the Hoard and the associated exhibition.
By working closely with the exhibition designers, we carefully restored many of the galleries’ original features, replacing the parquet floor and introducing new lighting on suspended servicing rafts, servicing and finishes, creating an exceptional environment for the exhibition.
In 2016 we reviewed the Museum’s occupied areas and to develop a masterplan for the future redevelopment of the complex, a commission that was extended in 2017 when Birmingham City Council asked us to develop a comprehensive masterplan for the entire Council House complex.
Our developed masterplan also included proposals for improving gallery and circulation spaces, visitor facilities, education rooms, storage facilities and staff offices, and complied with a exacting technical specification.