June 16, 2024
Art Gallery

Work begins to restore roof at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery

Vital work has started to repair the 220-year-old roof of Brighton Art Gallery & Museum to bring the Grade II listed building up to 21st century requirements.

This major building project, led by Brighton & Hove Museums, will enhance the care of the collections housed within the space as well as the visitor experience. The work will improve carbon performance and provide better access to the space for both staff and contractors.

Urgent repairs

A structural survey in 2019 found the building, one of the first purpose-built museums in the UK, needs urgent repairs. Funded by a grant of £1,463,769 by Arts Council England and £500k from Brighton & Hove City Council, work begins this week to decant items into storage in key areas.

Preparation work will start for the restoration of the two Georgian glass lanterns which span the building, like a glass skylight, above the central main gallery.

Temporary closures

The museum is expected to close completely for a short while in August 2024 for around one month. For most of the building project, the majority of Brighton Museum will remain open although two galleries – the 20th Century Gallery and the Willetts Gallery – will be closed.

Other galleries such as Fashion, World Art, Egyptian, Archaeology, Fine Art, Prints and Queer the Pier will remain accessible as normal via the front entrance and side galleries. 

The exciting programme of temporary exhibitions such as the ABBA: A week in Brighton and the upcoming Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition opening in September will continue.

Reducing energy costs

Work will include replicating the original Georgian lighting scheme which made use of light wells and sun pipes which will mean the whole gallery will be lit by daylight reducing energy costs.

Upgrades and repairs to the two large, glazed roof roofs which will include improved ventilation and insulation to improve carbon performance.

The internal walkway between the glazed lanterns will be renewed for better access for ongoing maintenance and to make this much safer for staff and contractors who access this space.

The 20th Century Gallery, below the glass lanterns showcases three influential artists: Pablo Picasso, Eric Ravilious and Grayson Perry, and displays furniture by significant British and European designers and manufacturers c1880 to the present.

Gallery rejuvenation

Once the lantern repairs are completed, the central gallery space below can be rejuvenated.

Work will begin by moving collections to protect them and enable the building of a complex internal crash deck. A crash or protection deck is a bespoke scaffolding structure or system that creates safe working conditions.

The architects working on the design are Donald Insall Associates.

Collections will gradually be removed from the 20th Century Gallery over the next few months.

Historic building

CEO of the Royal Pavilion & Museums Trust, Hedley Swain, said: “Brighton Museum & Art Gallery is an important historic building, part of the Royal Pavilion estate. It’s so important that buildings like this are maintained for the benefit of current and future generations.

“Visitors to the museum will be able to appreciate our artworks and exhibitions knowing the building is more sustainable, energy-efficient with better lighting and ventilation.

“We are so grateful to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport and Arts Council England for this important award from the Cultural Investment Funds, including Museum Estate and Development Fund (MEND) and Brighton & Hove City Council to whom we are also deeply grateful.”

Enjoyed by thousands

Donna Chisholm, Corporate Director City Services, said: “Repairs to the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery roof are vital for the ongoing maintenance of this historic Grade II listed building.

“The museum is an integral part of our culture and heritage offer in the city, with thousands of school children, residents and visitors enjoying the collections and exhibitions each year.

“The council is pleased to be working in partnership with Brighton & Hove Museums on this project and to provide matched funding for this much needed work.

“We thank our funding partner Arts Council England for the opportunity to ensure that this building can be used for many more years to come.”

Nationally important

Olivia Stitson, Senior Architect at Donald Insall Associates, said: “Brighton Museum & Art Gallery is a nationally important building as one of the first purpose-built museums in the country. 

“The 1960s roof lantern has reached the end of its service life, and its necessary replacement provides an important opportunity not only to improve safety, maintenance costs and carbon emissions, but ultimately make sure we’re passing this much-loved gallery to the next generation.”

“The introduction of a thermally insulated solid lead roof will significantly improve the performance of this Grade II*-listed building whilst also providing an incredible opportunity to reinterpret the building’s original architectural qualities and recreate a sense of daylight from above.”

Follow the progress of the roof project on the museum website and on social media.

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