Architect Selected for Whitworth's Building Designs
MUMA has been selected as the architectural practice who will shape the Whitworth Art Gallery's vision for the future. The practice won this opportunity through a RIBA architectural competition held following Whitworth's award of a first-round pass from the Heritage Lottery Fund, in February 2009. An initial field of over 130 competition entrants was narrowed to a shortlist of five firms that each submitted detailed designs. These were subject to public scrutiny as well as being considered in depth by the judging panel chaired by Chancellor of the University of Manchester, Tom Bloxham M.B.E.
MUMA will now work with the Whitworth on a detailed design of a new second entrance and extension for the gallery, connecting it more directly with Whitworth Park in which it is situated at the southern gateway of the University of Manchester campus. Plans for the development include an art garden and second entrance, a new informal 'cafe in the trees', a landscape gallery and and study area allowing visitors and researchers to get closer to the collections even when they are not on public display. Plans will be worked up during the next year and will be presented as part of the final stage of the Whitworth's Heritage Lottery Fund bid in 2010.
Upon the selection of this design, chair of the judging panel Tom Bloxham M.B.E. said "all the shortlisted designs were outstanding and had unique strengths, however MUMA's design shone in its thoughtful and sensitive response to a complex brief. Amongst many delightful touches the prospect of visiting a cafe in the tree canopy was particularly enjoyed, along with many further connections between gallery and surrounding park landscape. MUMA demonstrated care not only in the development of new designs but also in their consideration of improvements to the existing building."
The winning design takes inspiration from the words of an earlier director of the Whitworth, Margaret Pilkington: "I have come to the conclusion that a good museum or gallery should be a place where people feel comfortable. If it stands in a garden or park, the visitors should be able to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors as a counterpoint to what is within". An art garden and second entrance is framed by two new wings; a landscape gallery to the north gives an urban edge to the garden, and a more transparent, slender wing of the café celebrates the park's spectacular avenue of trees to the south. A lower ground floor provides new education facilities and improved access to the collection, with a new study centre and an art workshop opening into the Art Garden – a setting for art and events. Openings are created in the existing gallery providing the heart of the building with new views and contact with Whitworth Park. Transparency invites the passer by to explore further. A new promenade wraps the existing galleries and again makes the most of the gallery's connection with the park.
MUMA (McInnes, Usher, McKnight Architects) is a collaborative architectural design studio established in 2000. The principals of MUMA met when they studied together at the Mackintosh School of Architecture and prior to establishing MUMA, they worked together gaining a background in prestigious civic and arts buildings.
MUMA has recently completed the extension and refurbishment of the original Newlyn Art Gallery and the conversion of a redundant telephone exchange in Penzance, into 'The Exchange', a new contemporary art gallery, the re-design of the restaurant at the Royal Academy of Arts in London and the new restaurant and café for the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Currently MUMA's foremost public project is the new £30m Medieval & Renaissance Galleries for the Victoria & Albert Museum in London which opens 2nd December 2009. All of MUMA's work has been secured through architectural design competitions and their projects have received international awards and recognition.
Holding over 50,000 objects within nationally significant collections of art and design the Whitworth Art Gallery has been part of the cultural landscape of Manchester since 1889, when it was created as the first English gallery in a park. For the enjoyment and inspiration of Manchester's fast-growing population, the gallery's aim was to provide "a source of perpetual gratification to the people of Manchester & and cultivate taste and knowledge of the Fine Arts of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture". Today, the gallery acts as a cultural gateway to the south of the city for local communities and for university staff and students. The gallery is visited by over 140,000 people a year, from local families to international tourists.