Plymouth City Council has just signed a £22.6 million contract with Willmott Dixon, the construction and regeneration specialist, for a major conversion project for the central library and museum.
The work involves demolishing parts of the central library and city museum which will be rebuilt to create major new extensions. The work will transform the existing museum, which is over 100 years old, into a venue for large national and international exhibitions with a floor space of over 3,500 square metres. There will also be permanent galleries to highlight the story of Plymouth and its place in the world. They will hold the collections of the City Museum and Art Gallery, the Plymouth and West Devon Record Office, the Local Studies Library, the South West Film and Television Archive and the South West Image Bank. This will allow a unique combination of heritage, museums and visual arts capacity. In addition, there will be areas for research and learning, a shop, a café and a public square with outdoor dining options which will also host events and activities.
The buildings have been designed by architects Adkins, and will feature a cantilevered floating box with reflective cladding. It also involves the redesign of St Luke’s Church, already part of the existing museum complex, into a huge visiting exhibition gallery space.
Enabling works have already commenced, with the contract for the balance of the construction work signed on June 20th and work to begin later in the summer. Completion is expected in 2019 which will be followed by the internal fit out, with contractors still to be decided, with the History Centre due to open in 2020 as a flagship event for Mayflower 400, to mark the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims setting sail. In its entirety, the whole project is expected to cost £34 million; with £14.8 million from The Heritage Lottery Fund, £2 million from the government’s Coastal Community Fund, £8 million from Plymouth City Council and £4.1 million from Arts Council England, along with smaller grants from other organisations. It is hoped that such a unique facility for arts and heritage will be a massive boost to tourism, attracting local visitors and international tourists, as well as improving the cultural infrastructure of the whole region.