Press and Publicity – 2 weeks to go!

31 01 2015
Poster at Euston Station, London

Poster at Euston Station, London

Things are really hotting up and this last week has seen the architectural press descend on the Gallery, as well as our reopening publicity campaign hit both the streets of Manchester and the capital. The poster above was spotted by eagle eyed Florence, 11 year old daughter of MUMA architect Simon Usher – she was chuffed!

Architectural Press launch

Architectural Press launch

Gallery Director, Maria Balshaw together with Stuart McKnight of our architects, MUMA, hosted a press launch at the Gallery on Wednesday including presentations, in-depth interviews and tours of the new building. Although the final hanging of the Gallery’s collections and exhibitions is still on-going, staff and contractors at the Whitworth had gone to great lengths to make existing spaces and the new building look its best, and there was a highly positive vibe to the day.

We are truly counting down now to our reopening on 14 February – be prepared to ‘Fall in Love Again’.


Architectural references

7 12 2014

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.

1960s Bikerdike redesign of the Whitworth

1960s Bikerdike redesign of the Whitworth

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.”

Gallery at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art designed 1958

Gallery at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art designed 1958

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.

Sofa in the library at Louisiana

Sofa in the library at Louisiana

New oak seating at the Whitworth

New oak seating at the Whitworth

The Whitworth's South Gallery made the greatest connections with the surrounding park

The Whitworth’s South Gallery made the greatest connections with the surrounding park

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!

View at Louisiana from the garden into the gallery at night

View at Louisiana from the garden into the gallery at night

Night-time light and trees at the new Whitworth

Night-time light and trees at the new Whitworth

New Landscaping design facing Oxford Road

29 06 2014

New Landscaping design facing Oxford Road

With only four months to go before the Whitworth reopens its doors, life for everyone at the Gallery has ramped up a notch or two. Last week saw the arrival on site of our Phase II contractors, Manchester & Cheshire Construction Co Ltd., who will be joining ISG on completing the overall building project for the new Whitworth. The second phase of the project focuses on the original frontage of the Gallery facing onto Oxford Road which will be completely re-landscaped, combining an architectural design from MUMA, a new lighting scheme by engineers, Buro Happold, garden design by Sarah Price and the installation of existing sculptures and new commissions onto a sculpture terrace.

In anticipation of the Oxford Road Corridor scheme, which will see private vehicles removed from a length of Oxford Road, including directly in front of the Whitworth, there will be no vehicle access into the Gallery grounds. Instead, visitors arriving by car or coach will approach the building from Denmark Road, while anyone using public transport, cycle or on foot will be able to use either the new Parkside entrance or the redeveloped entrance as shown in the architect’s drawing above.

All the existing gates will remain, but the current road (due to be dug up over the next few weeks) will be replaced by a gently sloping stone and bound gravel route, and reconfigured step-free entrance, providing level access from the outer pavements all the way into the building. There will be a terrace area for events, gatherings and the display of artworks; all the existing trees will be retained and complemented with new formal planting, lawns, seating and soft landscaping.

Tibetan Cherry

Tibetan Cherry

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The soft landscaping designs by Sarah Price will include loosely clipped ‘cloud’ hedging to create a low rolling structure, formal trees such as Tibetan Cherry providing interest with decorative flowers, leaves and bark, and year round colour through flowering bulbs.

'Cloud' hedging and flowering bulbs

‘Cloud’ hedging and flowering bulbs

So far, much of the work on site has been at the back of the original building, but there will be great changes to the site facing Oxford Road over the next few months. This final part of the scheme is being funded mostly by Arts Council England and will link both sides of the Gallery and the surrounding Whitworth Park through the landscaping and lighting designs – watch this space.


9 05 2014

Anyone who visits the Whitworth Art Gallery will know that it is situated in the nearest and largest area of green space directly south of Manchester city centre, and in recent years a number of initiatives have gone a long way to integrating the Gallery with its adjacent parkland, whether that is removing the fence separating the two, installing artworks in the surrounding landscape, or encouraging children’s activities in the park in true forest school style (see:

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The first page of MUMA’s concept sketchbook illustrated the importance of the Inside/Outisde, alongside a quote from previous Gallery Director, Margaret Pilkington, who following a visit to Oslo in 1932, wrote:

“I have come to the conclusion that a good museum or gallery should be a place where people feel comfortable. If it stands in a garden or park, the visitors should be able to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors as a counterpoint to what is within.”

In 2011, the Southbank Centre commissioned the Eden Project to create a roof garden on top of the Queen Elizabeth Hall where people can relax, eat and drink. In the following film, Gallery staff on a research visit discuss the effects of creating open, green spaces within buildings for the arts. The team from the Whitworth Art Gallery reflect on the importance of the Whitworth Park as the setting for the redeveloped Gallery, and the importance of location in developing both the Gallery programme and visitor services.

Inside/Outside from Belle Vue Productions on Vimeo.

From the ‘dark heart’ of the Whitworth Art Gallery

27 04 2014

From the 'dark heart' of the Whitworth Art Gallery

The new doorway that will open out from the Pilkington Gallery, located right in the middle of the existing galleries, will form a central link between the old and the new, and bring more views of the adjacent park right into the building. The image shows construction of this new opening in progress, one of four new doorways being created between the present galleries and the new build element of MUMA’s design – the other three being routes out along the new Promenade Galleries on two levels.

The following image shows the change that this doorway will have on the Pilkington Gallery – at the top, two glass doors took visitors into the two main exhibition galleries, whereas the Architect’s concept image below, shows how the new single door will provide a central entrance to our future suite of three exhibition galleries; in addition, the available hanging space in the Pilkington Gallery is increased.

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Shiny new floors!

7 04 2014

Shiny floors!

There is nothing nicer than a bright, shiny floor – this one was almost like looking at an empty swimming pool, and wanting to dive right in! The room is one of a suite of three spaces that will in future be dedicated to housing the majority of the Whitworth’s collections of fine art, textiles and wallpapers. All went reasonably well with laying the floor in the first room, and our storage suppliers started to install the storage equipment. Unfortunately, the next two rooms proved to be more tricky – the flooring is a liquid applied soft resin, and it has taken several attempts to get it exactly right – it looks like we are now finally closer to finishing work in this area, and we’ll soon be able to report on the completion of our marvellous new stores.


This other beautiful floor is along the North Promenade, a future public space that will link the existing ground floor North Gallery with our new Landscape Gallery. The floor is Purbeck capstone, quarried in Dorset, and will complement the original external brick walls of the Gallery and new oak panelling that will line the north side of the corridor. Our architects, MUMA have precisely designed the layout of the flooring, and describe them as follows: ‘…there are 5 set widths of stone that we are using throughout, plus some bespoke widths to suit particular conditions. Lengths vary and are a factor of what size of slab comes out of the ground – they are cut to minimise wastage’. So not just beautiful, but designed with an eye to sustainable sourcing of materials.

Looking down the North Promenade, visitors will have a long view out to the park, while artworks will grace the inner wall – the first exhibition here will be photographs by Johnnie Shand Kydd (see the Gallery’s opening programme at:

Whitworth reopening announced – Autumn 2014

10 03 2014

Whitworth reopening date announced - 25 October 2014

Friday of last week saw Press events in London and Manchester to announce the reopening of the Whitworth, closed to the public since 1 September 2013, revealing the wonderful new Gallery spaces and facilities, and with a spectacular programme of exhibitions, combining ambitious contemporary art installations alongside the Gallery’s own permanent collections.

The day started with a breakfast launch in London, with presentations from architect Stuart McKnight of MUMA, and artist Cornelia Parker, whose work will feature in the Whitworth’s suite of three newly refurbished main galleries. For the full opening exhibition programme see:

Artist Cornelia Parker at the Press launch in London with an image of her work, Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View, 1991, on the screen

Artist Cornelia Parker at the Press launch in London with an image of her work, Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View, 1991, on the screen

The train whisking Gallery staff back up north was on time, and the sun shone for the second event in Manchester, where visiting press listened to an account of the project development and opening programme from Whitworth Director, Maria Balshaw and got a sneak preview of our new building. The Manchester press were also treated to cakes supplied by the Modern Caterer, artfully displayed on slates, breeze blocks and planks of wood, and judging by the enthusiastic tweeting, all those involved were delighted by the positive vibe of both events.

Delicious cakes supplied by Peter Booth and team of the Modern Caterer

Delicious cakes supplied by Peter Booth and team of The Modern Caterer

There is still lots to do between now and the autumn – so watch this space for more news of the final stages of our building project.