We hear from Esther Dugdale of design agency Event, which oversaw the redesign of The Burrell Collection in Glasgow, about the museum’s long-awaited reopening and what groups can expect on a visit.
How would you describe The Burrell Collection to someone who has never been before?
It’s one of the most beautiful fine and decorative arts museums in the world, located in the lush landscape of Pollok Park, in the south of Glasgow.
How big a job has the redesign been for you and your team?
Event was appointed in 2016 to carry out the masterplan for the complete refurbishment of this wonderful museum. We were then appointed to redesign the museum displays for the whole of the building.
We have been working on the Burrell for the last five years and are delighted for it to be open again. Having previously worked on the displays for Kelvingrove and Riverside, the Burrell represents the culmination of our involvement with the city’s museums.
What did you set out to achieve at the beginning of the project?
To sensitively enhance this iconic museum and present the internationally significant collection in harmony with its seminal 20th century architecture and its natural setting.
To make more of the building and more of the collection accessible for visitors to enjoy and appreciate and to tell new and engaging stories around the objects for diverse audiences. Our aim has been to demonstrate that you can present collections beautifully and engage audiences.
What led to the refurbishment and how challenging has the redesign been?
The Burrell is an architectural masterpiece – both the building and the displays were created with one unified aesthetic and a limited palette of sophisticated materials. That was recognised when both the building and the displays were listed to the highest level of protection.
Unfortunately, neither the building nor the displays were protecting the collection and needed urgent attention. Our task has been to create a new more sustainable flexible display system that meets 21st century display standards while still keeping within the spirit of the original design. It is unusual to have to get listed building consent for museum displays.
What is your favourite part of the redesign and why?
I love the quintessential ‘Walk in the Woods’ gallery where a new array of objects can be seen against the backdrop of the forest, representing the rich dialogue between man and nature.
But I am particularly drawn to the new enlarged east galleries that follow on. Here the Wagner Carpet, some of the stunning tapestry collection and an array of ceramics and other objects depict gardens of the imagination from across cultures – offering a different perspective on our idea of environment. The objects are huge and colourful and rich with spirit.
What kind of experience can groups expect when they visit?
World-class collections, beautiful spaces, stunning presentations, new galleries and new perspectives. Visitors will encounter a fabulous array of objects that have travelled through time and across the world, discover how these objects were made and get a glimpse inside the mind of the collector, Sir William Burrell.
As well as new displays and galleries, what other highlights are there for groups?
All the spaces maintain a sense of peace and tranquillity, a moment of quiet from the bustling city or a busy day on tour. This atmosphere is what the Burrell Collection is renowned for. The museum offers new spaces to relax indoors and out – places to contemplate the collections or enjoy the views.
The iconic café has been doubled and now opens up directly to the park and the shop is bigger and better. There are more things for children to do and new community spaces to enjoy. The surrounding park is beautiful for a stroll.