Last edited 14 Sep 2021

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The Burrell Collection

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The Burrell Collection in Glasgow to reopen in March 2022

The refurbishment of the A-listed building is now nearing completion, and installation of works from the 9,000 strong Burrell Collection is underway.

The global pandemic halted works on site in spring 2020. Works then resumed when government guidelines allowed, and in order to meet Covid-19 safe working methods, the programme needed to be adapted and extended, to allow for trades to work sequentially on site. This has led to a revised opening date.

Nearly half of the funding for the £68.25 million project was committed by Glasgow City Council, with significant contributions from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Scottish Government, the UK Government, and from many generous trusts, foundations, grant making bodies, corporate sponsors and individual donors.

Reimagining The Burrell Collection

The Burrell Collection in Glasgow is the UK’s largest and most significant current museum refurbishment project.

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About the Collection

Sir William Burrell (1861-1958), owner of a successful shipping company in Glasgow, devoted more than 75 years of his life to amassing this extraordinary Collection.

By the time of his death in 1958, he and his wife Constance, Lady Burrell (1875-1961) had amassed more than 9,000 objects and works of art. The extraordinary richness marks it as one of the world’s greatest, single personal collections.

Sir William and Lady Burrell gifted the Collection to the City of Glasgow in 1944. At the time it was described as, “One of the greatest gifts ever made to any city in the world.” (Sir Hector Hetherington, Glasgow University Principal)

Highlights include Chinese pottery and porcelain produced over a 5,000-year period, making it one of the most significant collections of Chinese art in Europe; paintings by renowned French artists including Manet, Cézanne and Degas; Medieval treasures including stained glass, arms and armour, architectural fragrments and over 200 tapestries and carpets, which are among the finest in the world.

The Collection is also home to the Wagner Garden carpet which is one of the three earliest surviving Persian garden carpets in the world, and has rarely been on public display since The Burrell Collection opened. The refurbishment and redisplay means it will be on permanent display accompanied by new and innovative methods of interpretation.

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Rationale for the refurbishment

The refurbishment and redisplay represents an important investment in the sustainability of this A-listed building and the Collection. The original building was no longer able to provide a suitable home for the Collection, but a new building would have cost significantly more than the refurbishment: the projected cost for an equivalent sized new build is £100 million +VAT.

Works to the building began in 2018 with repairs to the roof and the installation of modern glazing making the building more air-tight, reducing its overall energy consumption. A combined heating and power supply has also been installed,

A new entrance will bring visitors straight into the heart of the building and a newly created central stairway will encourage people to explore all three floors of the reimagined Burrell Collection for the first time. The outdoor green space has also been enhanced, creating new links between the museum and its stunning setting in Pollok Country Park.

On reopening, the museum’s gallery space will have increased by 35%, allowing important and unique objects from the Collection, which have not been seen for decades, or have never been on permanent display, to go on show. New displays will give visitors a better understanding of the artworks, the people who made them and some of the people who have owned them.

The original building

The original concept for the building, designed by Barry Gasson, John Meunier and Brit Andresen, was described by Historic Scotland as: “An outstanding bespoke museum commission of international importance, and an important example of Structuralist Tendency in architecture in the second half of the 20th century, emphasising the users' experience and the sense of place, and, in particular, making the most of the interior and exterior interface with the surrounding landscape.”

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Culture-led regeneration

The opening of The Burrell in 1983 was one of the first demonstrations of Glasgow’s commitment to cultural-led regeneration. By harnessing the power of its cultural draw, Glasgow positioned itself as one of the world’s great cultural and creative cities, making it a must-visit destination.

The combination of outstanding art and architecture, set within a stunning country park, created something truly special. As the Glasgow Herald reported in 1983 on its opening: "The Burrell is not just a magnificent building, nor is it just an array of precious objects – it’s a magical mystery tour and an aesthetic event rolled into one."

Over 12 million people visited the museum during its first 30 years and there is a strong sense of local pride and ownership of both the Collection and the building.

Since 1980, Glasgow has invested over £1.4 billion on cultural, events and sporting infrastructure. Culture and sport are vitally important to Glasgow economically and socially. Based on Visit Scotland’s average spending figures, Glasgow's museums created direct expenditure in the local Glasgow economy of £168 million in 2015/17. In 2017 it was estimated that the refurbished Burrell Collection would generate at least £1.86 million net economic impact for Glasgow City and £2.97 million for the Clyde Valley area each year.

The success of this approach has been demonstrated by the many accolades the city has been awarded, including:

Despite financial challenges, the city’s resolve to continue to invest in its cultural estate underlies its emphasis on continuing to improve the lives of its citizens.

The refurbishment transforms the Burrell Collection into an accessible and sustainable museum, designed to preserve and reinvigorate the Collection for future generations.

Refurbishment overview

Architects John McAslan + Partners, appointed in 2016, are the refurbishment project’s architect and landscape designer. John McAslan outlined their response to the brief:

"Responding to the project’s brief has informed our approach across all key areas, starting with essential repairs and upgrades. We have developed alternative ways to access the building to begin the enhanced visitor journey – with an approach which utilises both the existing portal entry and a number of new, discrete additional entrances to increase permeability and connectivity. We have considered how best to integrate the beautifully top-lit courtyard and Hutton Rooms into the visitor experience. In all cases we have respected the original architecture and adjusted it appropriately.

"Additionally, we have introduced energy conservation techniques throughout, whilst reconsidering the power and lighting needs of the Collection to support the improved conservation, interpretation and rotation of the Collection, including the Collection’s needs within the enfilade of north-lit galleries, affectionately known as ‘the walk in the woods’. We have then considered how these galleries might better connect with their southern counterparts and engage more effectively with repurposed internal galleries containing the Collection’s most light-sensitive elements. And, we have resolved how to remove the redundant lecture theatre to create a dramatic internal volume at the heart of the building, connecting each of the Collection’s principal levels – namely, the main gallery floor, a revived lower floor of open access storage, workshops, café and a special exhibition space, and connecting these floors with the repurposed learning spaces on the mezzanine above.

"In the context of enhancing the building’s setting, we are engaging more effectively with the landscape, as an integral part of the visitor experience, whilst reinforcing the Collection at the heart of Pollok Country Park."

Kier Construction Scotland began works in 2018, making the space more accessible for visitors, adding a range of enhanced facilities and carefully restoring and improving parts of the building, including the roof and windows to make it a more energy efficient. Works to the building fabric are designed to make it more airtight, reducing overall energy requirements and contributing to the building’s BREEAM ‘Very Good’ rating.

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Key building improvements delivered by the refurbishment

Making the building more sustainable:

Making the building more accessible:

Consultation programme

Since The Burrell Collection closed to the public in October 2016, a comprehensive consultation programme has engaged with more than 15,000 local people, giving ideas, insights and opinions which have shaped every aspect of the redesign of the building, access to it and the development of the new displays, galleries and spaces within and around the museum.

From the start of the refurbishment project, the opinions and aspirations of local people has been instrumental in the redesign of all aspects of the museum. Gaining an understanding of why people came to the museum and why others didn’t, together with what new visitors would like to see, helped inform every decision.

Since 2012 the most comprehensive outreach programme ever undertaken by Glasgow Life has established new links between thousands of people living near the Burrell Collection and Pollok Country Park. This has shaped the redesign of the building, access to it and the development of the new displays.

Interviews, focus groups, surveys, prototype testing and work with a range of Glasgow Museums Advisory Panels led to engagement with over 15,000 people, from across Glasgow and beyond. Feedback from existing and potential new visitors, across adult, family and early years audiences has been gathered and acted upon.

The Visitor Studies team have:

Comments on the refurbishment project

Councillor David McDonald, Chair of Glasgow Life, and Depute Leader of Glasgow City Council, said: “It’s wonderful to see that the installation of Sir William’s precious, beautiful and intriguing Collection has begun, now the delicate refurbishment of its home is almost at an end.

“This major refurbishment and redisplay will celebrate Sir William’s outstanding gift to the city and ensures it is at the heart of Glasgow’s cultural identity for the future, and having much more of The Collection on display and accessible will be one of its immediate successes.

“Sir William’s incredible legacy will help Glasgow and Scotland’s recovery from Covid-19, bringing increased pride and confidence, which has a tangible effect on our wellbeing. As we move out of a pandemic that is vital.”

Chief Executive of Glasgow Life, Dr Bridget McConnell, CBE, said: “March 2022 will mark a historic milestone in Glasgow’s story, as the completely refurbished Burrell Collection reopens to the world.

“Very soon, thanks to all the project’s funders, these wonderful works of art, which Sir William Burrell gave to the people of Glasgow, will be enjoyed in a modern, green museum, fit for purpose and for the future.

“Our vision for The Burrell Collection demonstrates the city’s ambition for it to become more widely appreciated and well known around the world and for Glasgow to retain its place as a global cultural leader.”

Sir Angus Grossart, Chair of Burrell Renaissance, said: “The Burrell Collection has a reputation as being one of the finest in the world. The wonderful new displays have enhanced and informed what visitors will see. They will find great cultural diversity, much

beauty and wonder and the great achievement of one enquiring and questioning mind, that of Sir William Burrell.”

Caroline Clark, Director Scotland, the National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “It is very exciting to think of the Burrell’s doors re-opening on this incredible art collection.

“Our major award of £16.5m was given in recognition not only of the importance of the Burrell’s stunning collection and architecture, but also because of the creative and inclusive design approach taken by Glasgow Life, with over 15,000 people sharing their ideas and collectively helping to create the new displays. We should applaud the effort of each and every one of these people as we celebrate the news that this much-loved cultural icon will be re-opening this coming March.”

The Scottish Government Culture Minister, Jenny Gilruth, said: “I am pleased that one of the great cultural destinations in Scotland, Glasgow’s Burrell Collection, will be re-opening next year after a significant refurbishment.

“Supported by £5.75 million in Scottish Government funding, this ambitious project will ensure the building is not only modernised and made more energy efficient, but will be more accessible to the public for years to come, and with a greatly expanded exhibition space.

“I’m particularly delighted that the redesign has been achieved in consultation with more than 15,000 people, ensuring that the citizens of Glasgow have had a say in its rebirth.

“As we recover from the pandemic, this reopening of this nationally important museum is a reminder of how important culture is to all our lives.”

UK Government Minister for Scotland Iain Stewart said: “The UK Government’s £5 million investment into The Burrell Collection’s sustainable refurbishment and redisplay will help ensure the people of Glasgow, as well as visitors from across the UK and around the world, can enjoy this unique art collection for generations to come.

“With other recent investments in Scotland including a £97m allocation from our Culture Recovery Fund, £1m for the Edinburgh Festivals, and £10m to support the development of the Dunard Centre, the UK Government is committed to supporting Scotland’s world-class arts and culture sector as we recover from the pandemic together.”

Professor Frances Fowle, Senior Trustee, Sir William Burrell Trust, said: “This exciting new refurbishment will once again provide a first-class setting for our world-class Collection. The innovative new displays, including a unique open storage facility, bring to life not only Sir William and Lady Burrell as collectors, but also the objects that they cherished. The Trustees are proud to support such an important project, creating new opportunities for visitors, both local and international, to appreciate the beauty and diversity of this outstanding collection.

Refurbishment team

Main building and design consultants

Other contractors and manufacturers

Timeline

1944 Sir William Burrell and Constance, Lady Burrell gift their collection of 9,000 works of art to the City of Glasgow
1967 Pollok Country Park is gifted to the city by the Stirling-Maxwell family, whose ancestral home was Pollok House
1969 Sir William Burrell Trust agree to proposal for a purpose-built home for the Collection to be constructed in Pollok Country Park
1971 International competition launches to design a home for the Collection, to meet the terms of the Deed of Gift set by Sir William Burrell (1861-1958)
1972 Winning architectural team announced: Barry Gasson, John Meunier and Brit Andresen
1978 Construction works begin on site
1983 The Burrell Collection is officially opened on 21 October by Her Majesty The Queen
1984 The museum welcomes over 1 million visitors in its first year of opening
1990 Glasgow is European City of Culture
1999 Glasgow is UK City of Architecture and Design
The Burrell Collection is widely recognised as having helped bring both of these accolades to the city, acting as a catalyst for Glasgow’s transformation into a cultural powerhouse
2013 The Burrell Collection is designated a Grade A listed building, acknowledging its significance
2014 Community consultation process begins involving 15,000 local people in order to make the art works relevant for current and future generations
2015 Selected works of art begin an international tour of France, North America and Japan as well as the UK
2016 The Burrell closes to the public for a major refurbishment and redisplay
2016 John McAslan + Partners appointed as architect for the refurbishment and redisplay
2017 Kier Construction Scotland appointed as main contractor
2018 Construction works begin on site
2018 A series of temporary exhibitions begins at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum featuring works by artist Joseph Crawhall (1861-1913) and highlights of the Medieval and Chinese collections

Media coverage

Transforming Pollok Country Park

The Burrell Collection sits within Pollok Country Park. This is Glasgow’s largest country park (360-acres) and is located in the south west of the city. Attracting 2 million visits a year, its extensive woodlands and gardens provide a quiet sanctuary from the nearby city centre.

As well as its importance as a green space for leisure and nature conservation and a contributor to Glasgow’s Climate Implementation Plan, Pollok Country Park has outstanding heritage features, including the Burrell Collection and Pollok House, two of Scotland’s most important museums, both of which are Category A Listed buildings.

Alongside the refurbishment of the Burrell Collection and significant investment in Pollok House, Glasgow City Council and Glasgow Life are delivering ‘The Transforming Pollok Country Park Project’. This aims to transform the country park from a wonderful but underutilised historic space, into a world class civic destination enjoyed more often by citizens and visitors to the city.

The project aims to improve access to the park and its attractions by:

Visitors will benefit from:

Further information

--Glasgow Life 16:39, 31 Aug 2021 (BST)

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