Architects AL_A reveal designs for 'world-class' £42m Paisley Museum

The brief is one of the most radical I've encountered
– Amanda Levete

The transformation project designed to turn Paisley Museum, in Renfrewshire, Scotland, into a world-class tourist destination is moving forward, with the first images of the redesign produced by architects AL_A being released.

The town of Paisley is best known for the pattern of the same name – an ornamental textile design using a teardrop-shaped motif with a curved upper end. Renfrewshire Council is planning to invest a total of £100m (US$120m, €110m) on a number of venues and outdoor spaces, aimed at using Paisley's cultural and heritage story to transform the area's future.

The museum will cost £42m (US$51m, €46m) to develop. When it reopens in 2022, it's hoped that visitor numbers will quadruple to around 125,000 people a year. Round One funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Scottish Government's Regeneration Capital Grant Fund was secured to help pay for the project.

AL_A Architects, led by Amanda Levete, received a brief that Levete called "one of the most radical I've encountered", to reimagine the near-150-year-old museum.

"Paisley has a proud industrial past and a history of innovation and radical thinking," she said. "We've embedded this into our design to create an extraordinary place for the community of Paisley."

Changes to location include a fully accessible entrance courtyard and red glazed entrance hall that will create a "dynamic and inviting presence" and a "contemporary face" for the museum.

There will be a new wing to the west of the existing building, providing step-free access to the Coats Observatory, which is the oldest public observatory in Scotland; a new garden creates a new public space for the town; internal renovations will improve accessibility and circulation, and enable the museum to double the number of objects on display to 1,200; an interactive weaving studio will keep alive Paisley's traditional textile skills.

Among the collections held at Paisley Museum are the world's largest collection of Paisley shawls and pattern books, artwork from the Glasgow Boys – a collective of Impressionist and post-Impressionist painters from the 19th century – one of Scotland's best collections of studio ceramics, and mediaeval manuscripts dating from before the Reformation of the 16th century.

Councillor Lisa-Marie Hughes, chair of Renfrewshire Leisure, said the global impact of Paisley and its people in creating a fashion icon and having once been the centre of the world's textile industry, would all be celebrated by the reopened museum, retelling its stories and giving "the world a reason to come back to Paisley".

"The images revealed show how this wonderful historic building will at once be preserved and modernised, and ensure this proud symbol of Paisley's past is at the heart of its future."

The museum's collections remain available to the public while work is underway, via the only publicly-accessible museum store on a UK high street – Paisley: The Secret Collection.

Paisley  Paisley Museum  Renfrewshire  AL_A  National Lottery Heritage Fund  Amanda Levete 
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