John McAslan Partners: The Burrell Collection


The museum that has housed the Burrell Collection in Glasgow for forty years has just reopened after a six-year renovation and expansion project led by British studio John McAslan + Partners.
The collection includes 9000 works representing 6000 years of history which was donated to the City of Glasgow in 1944 by a trader, collector and philanthropist Sir William Burell (1861-1958). From 1983, the collection was stored and exhibited in a museum designed for the purpose by three architects then young Cambridge professors, Barry Gasson, Brit Andresen and John Meunier.
Over the past forty years, the building has become part of the collective imagination as a vast heritage that has become a highly valued public heritageconsidered one of the most important late modernist buildings in the UK.
After being commissioned to renovate the monument by Life in Glasgowcultural heritage institution appointed by Glasgow City Council, John McAslan presented his concept of adaptive reuse. He sees buildings like this as shrouded in a kind of magic that makes them particularly valuable in public opinion. This awareness guides the approach of its project team towards a process of mediation. He realized that any type of change beyond restoring a structure with obsolete parts and services would have turned the project into a disrespectful intervention that would never be accepted by the public; yet the museum could not simply count on its reputation to sustain it, but needed to be modernized and refurbished to offer a more up-to-date image, particularly in the reception of visitors.

Completed in 1983 after a competition organized by the RIBA About a decade earlier, the building housing the Burrell Collection is one of very few Scottish buildings from the late 20th century to be listed as a Category A cultural heritage property for its historical value. In addition, it is located in an exceptional position in the middle of Pollok National Parkwhere it stands out in the landscape with its composite facades waxed concrete, stainless steel, wood, glass and red sandstone.
The relationship with the park that was so important in the original building is the main key to interpreting the renovation project, guaranteeing the public a better and more welcoming transition between the wood and the museum entrance, with more dialogue visual between inside and outside. To this end, a new entry was added on the east wall, accessible from a paved square designed for the entertainment of visitors, directly connected to the cafeteria in the southeast corner beyond the wall of wood and glass.
A new oriented volumes connects the different levels of the museum to the mezzanine galleries and goes down to the ground floor which has just been opened, creating a kind of amphitheater which is also a monumental staircase, providing another link between the ground floor ground floor and the lower level now containing an exhibition and events gallery as well as a new archive space. The collections have been reorganized and are now on display by topic, using immersive storytelling as a museographic guide. With most of the collection in the archives, but accessible, the museum now has 35% more space that it had in the original layout.
In addition to the expansion, connection and re-exhibition, the exterior envelope of the museum has been renovated, reusing existing materials while improving energy performance. John McAslan + Partners, engineers at Atelier Ten, and facade consultant Arup talk about a “tissue first” approach, maximizing the performance of building components and materials before considering the use of mechanical air conditioning systems. In this model, for example, the reuse of existing aluminum frames avoided the need to add over 8.5 tonnes of new aluminum to the building, avoiding 100 tonnes of carbon emissions that would have been produced during its production.
Graeme DeBrincat, Principal Facade Engineer at Arup, adds: “We designed and detailed subtle interventions, implementing new performance elements such as a bespoke gasket system and thermal breaks on the existing glazing frame, replacing non-visible roofing systems with alternative and installing high-performance glazing into the existing system. These interventions have contributed to over 50% of overall building energy improvements. And the Burrell has been a catalyst for our research into architectural glass recovery. No glass material went to landfill, 16 tons of glass was recycled into the manufacture of flat glass and the rest went into other building products. It was gratifying to see what we could achieve thanks to to a circular design approach.”
The new Burrell collection has obtained the Excellent BREEAM ratingplacing the museum in the top 10% of best low energy buildings in the UK.

Mara Corradi

Architect: John McAslan + Partners
Client: Glasgow Life
Location: Glasgow (UK)
Commission date: May 20, 2016
Completion: March 7, 2022
Landscape architect: John McAslan + Partners
Structural engineer: David Narro Associates
Services / Fire Engineer / BREEAM: Workshop 10
Facade Consultant: Arup
Cost consultant: Gardiner & Theobald
Project manager: Gardiner & Theobald
Main contractor: Kier
Planning consultant: John McAslan + Partners
Acoustical Consultant: Sandy Brown Acoustics
Access Consultant: David Bonnett Associates
Exhibition designer: Event communication
Restaurant Consultant: Jo Headland
Retail Consultant: State Looking
Wayfinding / signage designers: Studio LR
Main exterior materials:
Locharbriggs Sandstone
Stainless steel
Interior Key Materials:
Locharbriggs / Lazenby Sandstone
Portland Coombefield Limestone
Glued laminated timber
Ash wood

Photos by: Hufton+Crow


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