The existing county art gallery in Maidstone houses a fascinating and nationally important collection of 600,000 artefacts and specimens. These include a nine metre-long Solomon Islands’ war canoe, an outstanding collection of Japanese art, and the remnants of an iguanodon, all brought together in an Elizabethan manor house - Grade II* listed.
To improve the conservation facilities, create more display space and open up the collection to a wider audience, the Borough Council decided to build an extension and new entrance to the town’s main shopping street.
Working with the RIBA competitions’ office we established a brief for a two-stage design competition which would draw-out ideas that would enlarge and improve the existing facilities while also taking account of the charming historic garden setting.
During the competition we arranged special site visits to talk to the curators and help the museum meet each architect, so they could understand the various different approaches.
We also assisted the museum with the development of a successful Heritage Lottery Funding application, and worked on the initial briefing and concept design with the winning team. The new East Wing provides a contemporary contrast with plate glass and diamond-shaped copper alloy panels.
The new galleries were completed in 2011. By 2012 the museum expects to be providing hands-on activities for 14,000 schoolchildren a year.