It is almost two months until we reopen our doors to visitors and a good time to reflect on the wonderful MUMA designs for our new building and how, in part, they reference the earlier architectural design intervention of John Bikerdike and Partners in the early 1960s, and in turn Scandinavian design. The original gallery had developed in phases during the period 1889-1908 and little else done until the major modernist redevelopment soon after the gallery was handed over to the University of Manchester.
As described by the Architectural History Practice: “Bickerdike travelled in Scandinavia and was interested in Olof Olsson’s 1958 work at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, perhaps partly because this too was an adaptation of a Victorian building in a park. There is anecdotal evidence that the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Copenhagen was another influence. This museum is housed in a mid 19th century villa set in wooded grounds which was extended from 1958 by Jorgen Bo and Wilhelm Wohlert, initially with pavilions linked by glazed corridors. The villa origins, use of simple natural materials and engagement with the grounds offer an obvious parallel with the Whitworth Art Gallery.”
When MUMA first visited the Whitworth, during the architectural competition in 2009, they commented on the quality and beauty of the natural materials used by Bikerdike – stone, elm panelled walls and loliondo hardwood flooring. These materials were a modern equivalent of the terracotta, marble and oak parquet floors from the original Edwardian building, and MUMA were determined to continue this tradition of working only with good quality materials and the highest standards of finish.
In addition the brief to MUMA was to reconnect the Gallery with the external landscape – providing new views out to Whitworth Park and bringing the outside in. And, as the new building development nears its completion, there is no doubt at all that this latest architectural intervention is meeting the brief. We are currently deliberately avoiding publishing too many photographs of the new building – excitement is growing and we don’t want to spoil the surprise!
On Friday of last week, I visited the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, just north of Copenhagen; it was my first visit, and I absolutely loved it. The parallels between each of the three architectural visions are obvious – the placement of the building within the surrounding parkland, the play of light, natural materials, the connections between the art and the landscape – the list goes on. I spent over 8 hours at Louisiana and took hundreds of photographs – it was impossible to decide what to include here, but in the end I was taken by an evening view into the gallery that almost replicates a view of the amazing new window that looks over Denmark Road in Manchester!