Birmingham considers plans for new museum as part of Council House refurb

Plans for major modernisation works to Birmingham Council House and the adjoining Museum & Art Gallery have taken a step forward with a contractor-led design team being appointed to conduct a feasibility study for the project.

Birmingham City Council has appointed contractor, Bouygues and a design team led by local practice Associated Architects – working with conservation architects Rodney Melville & Partners and Hoare Lea M & E Engineers – to carry out the study.

The study will look at how the works should be carried out, with a final report due in June 2018.

Bouygues (formerly Thomas Vale Construction) was selected via the Constructing West Midlands framework and Associated Architects appointed following a tender process to select a practice with a strong track record in dealing with cultural sector heritage projects.

The Grade II* listed complex – comprising the Council House, which was built in 1879, and the Council House Extension, built in 1911 – requires major improvements, in particular the upgrade of its electrical and mechanical installations.

Alongside the council’s functions, the historic buildings also house the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, which houses one of the three great regional museum collections in the UK and is visited by more than 750,000 people a year.

The need to renew the complex’s infrastructure presents a unique opportunity to create a new museum for the city, with plans including a new children’s museum, community gallery and larger learning suite.

Birmingham Museums Trust will work with community groups to rethink the city’s collection and how it can best be showcased to a 21st century audience.

Interactive displays are expected to be installed to try and attract young, multicultural audiences and international visitors to the city.

Cllr Ian Ward, deputy leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “The appointment of Bouygues and their design team led by Associated Architects, is the next step towards progressing the much needed modernisation of these buildings.

“As well as updating the Victorian infrastructure of the Council House, this provides a once in a lifetime opportunity for Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery to be redeveloped as an international destination which reflects the city’s stories to the world.”

The works will allow the Museums Trust, on behalf of the city council, to progress plans for the submission of a Stage 1 bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund in late 2018 for support for the redevelopment project. This will be followed by a Stage 2 bid in 2019.

Ellen McAdam, Director of Birmingham Museums Trust, said: “This appointment is an important step towards creating a new Museum for Birmingham. We look forward to working with Birmingham City Council to deliver the project. We can now begin fundraising in earnest.

“The Birmingham Museums’ team will be working hard to take the project to the next stage. We will continue to engage with local communities to showcase the city’s world-class collection. We aim to reimagine this great historic collection for the young, diverse Birmingham of the 21st century.”