Glinting addition to heritage museum in Maidstone, UK opened to the public
Maidstone Museum & Bentlif Art Gallery has re-opened following an extensive £3m refurbishment and the addition of a new east wing by Hugh Broughton Architects. Clad with 'gold' shingles which hint at the museum’s collection of 'treasures' on display inside, the new East Wing provides the museum with a reinvigorated look making it the cultural focus for the town centre.
The core of Maidstone Museum, a Grade II listed building located within the boundaries of a conservation area, is a Tudor manor house dating from 1561. The building was acquired by Maidstone Borough Council in 1855 and opened as a Museum in 1858. Since then it has been subject to numerous expansions, resulting in an eclectic architectural arrangement.
The scheme improves storage facilities, brings previously inaccessible spaces into use and allows more of the museum’s historic buildings to be experienced. The East Wing provides new gallery spaces, which enable more of the collections to be seen. The provision of new and improved services including a shop, new toilets with baby-changing facilities and cloakroom, ease visitor circulation throughout the building and enhance the visitor experience.
The East Wing responds to the multilayered history and architecture of the museum. The elevations combine frameless glazing with a diagrid of copper alloy shingles, creating a contemporary counterpoise to the existing brick facades. The copper alloy shingles emulate the diamond leaded glass windows of the original Tudor building and have been individually hand cut and crafted on site, enhancing the artisanal qualities of the Museum.
A new entrance on the East elevation welcomes visitors from Maidstone High Street into the new East Wing. The entrance opens into an open plan foyer and orientation area occupied by Maidstone's Visitor Information Centre and the Museum shop. At first floor level a public meeting room housed in a glazed box offers dramatic views of St. Faith's Church which visually re-connects the museum with Brenchley Gardens, fulfilling the ambitions of the museum’s Victorian founders. A system of bespoke connectors between the glass and steel structure ensures a completely frameless flush glazed finish.
The new Japanese Gallery is located within the copper clad space above the reception. It is lit by an undulating ceiling of north-facing rooflights, which enliven the white cube space and ensure an even stream of daylight in to the gallery. This gallery is the new permanent home for one of the museum's highlights, an internationally significant display of Japanese Art collected in the nineteenth century by one of the Museum's founders, Julius Brenchley.