Swindon's striking new Museum and Art Gallery - A progress presentation at Rabley Drawing Centre
A packed Rabley Drawing Centre hosted a visionary presentation on the progress of Swindon’s striking Ken Shuttleworth / Make Architects designed new Museum and Art Gallery last Friday evening (6 October).
The proposed cutting edge new flagship building will place Swindon at the very heart of contemporary British Art, a purpose-built, landmark structure to create a suitable home for Swindon’s exceptional and extensive collections of modern art and ceramics, particularly the renowned collection of Modern British Art which includes works by LS Lowry, Lucien Freud, Henry Moore, Graham Sutherland and many other of this country's notable artists from the late nineteenth century to the present.
Architect Jason Parker of Make Architects explained to all present the vision for the new buildiing, the ambitious plan to create an iconic museum and art gallery in Swindon’s town centre adjacent to Princes Street and giving detail as to how the building would work for visitors and it's collections, whilst providing insight into what it will mean for Swindon. It will become the centrepiece of the town's new cultural centre, attracting visitors to the whole area whilst creating a sense of pride and wellbeing for residents and business and acting as an economic catalyst for the whole wide region around the town. "It needs to work today, and in five, ten and in twenty years time" stated Jason, explaining that the appeal and relevance of the building to the community must be simple to understand, yet as clear to the next generation as it is to us today.
Robert Hiscox, chair of the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery Trust who launched this project paid particular tribute to the efforts of his colleague and former trustee, Lord Joel Joffe who sadly died earlier in the Summer, describing him as a 'Pioneer' and without whom this project may never have seen the light of day.
The siting for the new building will be on Princes Street between the Wyvern and where the Magistrate Courts currently resides. The spires at the point of each 'wing' will become clear features of the Swindon skyline, making the structure a central focal point for the whole town and, as Jason Parker explained, these spires will act to link Old Town with the New Town of Brunel's Railway Village, the two historic centres of the Swindon. It will have a profound and positive effect on the town.
The budget for the overall project stands at £22m, the largest proportion of which will be from the Heritage Lottery Fund assuming that the bid is successful. Swindon Council are heavily behind the project and have pledged £5m towards the total. The project is being co-ordinated by Dr Rod Hebden, director of the trust who is putting the Heritage Lottery Fund bid together, the deadline for which is at the end of November. The result of the bid will be announced in the Spring, probably in April, and if successful the project will then take several years to translate into reality, so the doors will be unlikely to open to the public much before 2023.
The backdrop for the presentation was Sadie Tierney's striking exhibition of new new woodcuts and watercolours 'Of Night, Light and the Half-Light' at Rabley Drawing Centre. Centering on works expressing funfair and circus scenes it chimes and coincides with Marlborough's two Mop Fair weekends across the month. To find out more click here.
How does this major new building relate to Marlborough? Meryl Ainsley, Founder and Director of Rabley Drawing Centre, Marlborough summed it up succinctly: "I worked at Swindon College of Art for many years prior to the foundation of Rabley Drawing Centre in 2004. The amazing art collection at Swindon Museum and Gallery was a primary resource, inspiring the students encouraging them aspire to excellence – A building that can bring the community together and invigorate a sense of pride is a wonderful opportunity. It is a beautiful design, the fan shapes of the structure like two great hands grabbing the future!!”