• Architecture
  • Arts

Victoria Gallery and Museum,
Liverpool

Info

Project Details:

Breathing new life into the first redbrick university to create a new destination for Liverpool.

Client: University of Liverpool

Construction Value: £6.4m

Completion: 2008

Location: Liverpool

Images: Morley von Sternberg

People

Designed by the eminent architect Alfred Waterhouse in 1892, the Victoria Building was the first in the University of Liverpool’s estate. Its highly detailed, decorative style gave rise to the term ‘redbrick university’, but when the university had outgrown its confines and moved many of its functions elsewhere, the grand old building became underused and undervalued.

Led by Professor Kelvin Everest, the University wanted to bring the building back to life to house their collections and provide space for the Educational Opportunities Department, whose purpose is to encourage and support those who traditionally would not have considered going to university. They wanted the space to be opened up to the people of Liverpool and create a new visitor attraction to coincide with the city’s status as the European Capital of Culture in 2008.

The distinctive colour and terracotta detailing lead to the nickname 'redbrick university'

A new cafe sits within the listed building

This project has transformed a private university building into one that can be enjoyed by all, whether school children involved in activities planned by Educational Opportunities, or people visiting the museum’s collections, the café, shop, lecture theatre or the magnificent building itself.

Rachel James, Consultant

Our challenge was to take this magnificent but tired building, unsuitable for modern teaching function, and transform it into a new gallery and museum, providing full public access for the first time. It had no disabled access or lifts to upper floors, but being Grade II listed, we needed to work with the Victorian Society to bring the building into the 21st century.

New public galleries house the University’s art and heritage collections while providing appropriate environmental conditions

Design

The starting point for our refurbishment was to make the most of Waterhouse’s stunning interiors as the backdrop for the new facilities. Through careful refurbishment, they are now visible to the wider public for the first time in the building’s history.

The Tate Hall, the original university library with lofty ceilings and timber beams on the second floor, is now home to the university’s collection of historic artefacts, whilst art is also exhibited on the first floor. The Leggate Theatre, a semi-circular lecture hall, has been restored and improved to host meetings, public lectures and music events. New offices for the Educational Opportunities Department are on the ground floor, providing an important resource to encourage people of all ages and backgrounds to study.

The interiors of the Grade II listed building needed to be carefully refurbished and at times, modernised

The new museum portion of the building, Tate Hall, was the former library

Intricate details were carefully restored

A new staircase sits sensitively within the historic context

The original Leggate Theatre, then the Ats Theatre, image courtesy of the University of Liverpool

The Leggate Theatre prior to our restoration

The Leggate Theatre has been returned to its original standard

We made series of sensitive interventions to make the building more accessible. Firstly, we relocated the main entrance away from the busy and polluted Brownlow Hill into the heart of the campus. From here, visitors can pass into the new reception space, shop and café with level access across the ground floor. A glazed passenger lift also provides access to upper floors for the first time.

Externally, there was very little we needed to do to the building. The only ailing element was the impressive clock tower, which vies for attention with Liverpool’s two famous cathedrals on the city’s skyline. This was fully restored – establishing the Victoria Building as a Liverpool landmark once more.

Ground floor plan

A passenger lift within the clock tower provides accessibility to all for the first time in the building's history

The creation of a public gallery and museum have opened the Victoria building to the city