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Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum wins prestigious architectural awards

  • Date: 11 July 2013
  • Area: South West
Royal Albert Memorial Museum

Royal Albert Memorial Museum . Credit: Photo courtesy of Royal Albert Memorial Museum

The Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM), part of an Arts Council England Renaissance Major partner museum consortium, has won three awards from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) this summer.

RAMM and its architects, Allies and Morrison (A&M), were honoured in a ceremony at the STEAM museum in Swindon in June 2013, awarded with a RIBA Best Practice Award. The architects oversaw the museum's ambitious redevelopment between 2001 to 2011.

The RIBA Awards programme champions and celebrates the best of British architecture. RAMM also won two of the three South West Special Awards - for Conservation and as Building of the Year.

Last year, RAMM won the Art Fund Prize Museum of the Year 2012 award, scooping up a £100,00 cash prize and praised by judges for the 'ambition and imagination' of its redevelopment.

RAMM's redevelopment programme of expansion, enhancement and refurbishment places the museum firmly in the 21st century.  

RAMM was originally fashioned in the Gothic Revival in the 19th century by architect John Hayward as part of larger complex that also encompassed a school of arts, a school of science and a library but had outgrown its purpose due to popularity.

The redevelopment included structural damage repair and integration of the building's spaces, as well construction of an additional entrance, a new temporary exhibitions gallery, and a new collection store called The Ark, an energy efficient and ecologically sustainable building that opened in 2008.

The original Queen Street entrance linked the museum to the city's bustling commercial centre. The new entrance links the Victorian building to the city's Roman wall, Norman castle, 17th-century civic gardens, art centre and library. The conservation award was given in recognition of the architects' sympathetic treatment of the original building when adding the very modern new galleries and entrance.

RAMM's £24 million redevelopment was funded by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, Exeter City Council and other sources.

Other South West RIBA Award winners include Beacons Edge (Bath), Berry Heads Rock (Devon), Cranham Lodge (Bath), The Green house (Devon), and St Peters Catholic Primary School (Bath). 

The RIBA judges commented: 'This is a nationally important project, made all the remarkable when the full logistical story is explained. For example, only 0.01% of the museum archive is on display in RAMM. A&M's attention to detail and respect for the 'timeline' of the project - Roman, Norman, Medieval, High Victorian - is evident at every turn. This care has been carried through by the contractor to produce a high-quality finish throughout. Empowered by the community, the project now sits as an important ingredient of the emerging Culture Quarter and has become an educational and tourist focal point, and a city treasure.'

Phil Gibby, Area Director, South West, Arts Council England says: 'We applaude the vision and craftsmanship of RAMM and its architects in transforming the museum into a first-class facility for thousands to enjoy the past and present of our country's history. The Arts Council recognises the leadership role that RAMM plays in the Area, and we look forward to seeing all walks of life engage with its fabulous collections and unique building.'

As well as being an Arts Council England Major partner museum along with Plymouth City Museum & Art Gallery, last year RAMM was part of a successful partnership that received nearly £1.2 million from Arts Council England's Museum development fund.
 
The partnership includes Bristol Museums, Galleries and Archives, Plymouth City Museum & Art Gallery and the South West Federation of Museums and Art Galleries. It will provide a network of professional advice to all museums in the South West region, particularly supporting smaller museums.

A painting from RAMM's collections, Portrait of an African, is on the shortlist for Art Everywhere, the Art Fund's summer poster campaign. If the painting receives enough votes, it will be included in the world's biggest art exhibition. To vote, go to http://arteverywhere.org.uk/artworks/