Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ashmolean Museum : By Rick Mather Architects

Oxford, United Kingdom
Rick Mather Architects
Post By:Kitticoon Poopong
Photo © Courtesy of Richard Bryant/Arcaid. Co.UK--Charles Robert Cockerell's Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England, is a Grade 1—listed building. One of the historic review board's requirements was that the expansion would not be seen from the street, the vantage point from which this photograph was taken.

Rick Mather’s Ashmolean expansion brings a museum’s remarkable collection into the light. 
Not long ago, the ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England, was like many of the objects it houses: an antique earthen-ware vessel, astonishing for what it was in its day, but not something that worked well for everyday use in modern times. 

Photo © Courtesy of Richard Bryant/Arcaid. Co.UK--Visitors enter the addition through a pair of arches, on axis with the museum's monumental entrance.
The Ashmolean was founded in 1677, when Elias Ashmole, a wealthy Englishman and avid accumulator, donated his collections to Oxford University. These included the “cabinet of curiosities,” stuffed animals and ethnographic relics acquired by John Tradescant and his son, John the Younger, 17th-century naturalists and gardeners who endeavored to gather and preserve “all knowledge.” The original Ashmolean (now housing Oxford’s Museum of the History of Science) was the first building in Europe constructed specifically as a public museum.
Photo © Courtesy of Richard Bryant/Arcaid. Co.UK--In this photograph, five of the addition's six floors are visible. Bridges span the double-height basement and second-floor galleries.
Over the next 200 years, the Ashmolean shifted away from the natural sciences and amassed an impressive collection of art and cultural artifacts. In 1845, the museum moved into a Neoclassical building designed by Charles Robert Cockerell. The great south-facing expanse of the building gave it a palatial appearance, but in fact it was just one bay deep and only contained a total of 22,000 square feet of exhibition space on three floors. In the 1890s, a lot to the north was acquired, and though the site is hemmed in by buildings on three sides, the museum gained another 28,000 square feet by constructing a series of glass-roofed, cast-iron industrial sheds there. 
Photo © Courtesy of Richard Bryant/Arcaid. Co.UK--A glass wall floods a second monumental staircase with daylight. It is decorated with busts of the Ashmolean’s directors (known as "keepers" until recently), bedecked in togas.
During the ensuing 150 years, the Ashmolean’s collection grew further, in part through the finds of Oxford archaeologists such as Sir Arthur Evans, but the museum was so small, only a fraction of the art could be displayed. It also lacked climate-controlled space to show textiles, a back-of-house area, and even a loading dock.
Photo © Courtesy of Richard Bryant/Arcaid. Co.UK--A series of staircases on one side of the atrium allows visitors to enjoy daylight as they walk from one floor to another.
In 1999, Rick Mather Architects was hired to do a master plan, including an evaluation of the collections and extensive historic research on the building. Principal Rick Mather, a native of Oregon, came to London in the 1960s to study urban design at the Architecture Association and decided to stay. His firm has been responsible for a number of museum and cultural projects, including significant restoration work and an addition for the Sir John Soane–designed Dulwich Picture Gallery, in Dulwich, London.
Photo © Courtesy of Richard Bryant/Arcaid. Co.UK--The proximity of the galleries to the atrium enables daylight to orient visitors through the interior.
The master plan yielded vital documentation for the Listed Building Consent application, an arduous process required for the alteration of historic buildings in the U.K. Although the resulting Listed Building Consent permitted the demolition of the sheds, it also “made it a condition that you could not see the new building from the street,” says Ashmolean’s director Christopher Brown. This limited the height of the addition. “What Rick Mather had to do was work within a sort of box of space.”
Photo © Courtesy of Richard Bryant/Arcaid. Co.UK--The galleries are no more than a few steps from the six-story atrium. This double-height gallery is crossed by a bridge at the third-floor level.
Brown comments, “Oxford has a taste for pastiche, and I wanted a building of 2009.” But he also had a requirement that created a spatial puzzle for the architects. Characteristically, museums organize their collections by department (Greek, Roman, and so on), but this kind of design isolates collections, making it difficult to form connections between them. Brown wanted diverse objects to be displayed according to their cultural associations and time period, showing how they relate to each other visually so that “they communicated with each other.” When visitors moved through the galleries, they would be able to piece together the story of how different cultures influenced each other by observing the art.
Photo © Courtesy of Richard Bryant/Arcaid. Co.UK--Some of the galleries in the renovated portion of the old building maintain their original flavor.
The resulting expansion is a deft insertion of a new concrete-framed building into the void that remained when the sheds were taken down. The position of the basement, first, and second floors of the original building set the heights of the basement, first, and third floors of the new portion (see section, below). The spaces are organized around a central atrium that is on axis with Cockerell’s double-height entry. On one side of this atrium, a series of beautifully crafted staircases allows patrons to move from one level to the next. Bridges located on the first and third levels span double-height galleries on the ground and second floors. No gallery is more than a few steps away from the atrium, and many look into it as well, enabling daylight to be an orientation device. “Without it, it would be like you were looking at art in the basement of a battleship,” says Mather. Sound transmitted throughout the building by this core helps give the interior a lively atmosphere, avoiding the hushed austerity typical of older museums.
first floor plan--drawing Courtesy of Rick Mather Architects
second floor plan--drawing Courtesy of Rick Mather Architects
Mather’s design does an extraordinary job of organizing the Ashmolean’s collection rationally, helped considerably by the firm’s extensive analysis of it during the master-planning phase. It effectively doubles the available exhibition space. Now there are 39 galleries, and 35 of them display the permanent collection. The addition does not intersect with Cockerell’s galleries too often. This helps avoid the experience common to many expansions, where visitors are forced to time-travel much too frequently between rooms with herringbone parquet floors and big base moldings, and others with floors and ceilings of ice-white Sheetrock. Here, the galleries that have been renovated in the old building have maintained their original Victorian flair. 
third floor plan--drawing Courtesy of Rick Mather Architects
fourth floor plan--drawing Courtesy of Rick Mather Architects
Two things fortunately missing from this addition are air-conditioning grilles and drafty air. Spaces are conditioned using displacement ventilation: Air is circulated through concealed slots at the tops and bottoms of walls at such low velocities that it cannot be felt. Brown finally has his properly conditioned textile galleries (and a loading dock). “It is hard to adapt a 19th-century building to modern museum practice,” he says, “but we have caught up now.”
fifth floor plan--drawing Courtesy of Rick Mather Architects

section B-B--drawing Courtesy of Rick Mather Architects

The People

University of Oxford / Ashmolean Museum

Rick Mather Architects
123 Camden High Street
Tel:+44 207 2841727
Fax:+44 207 2677826
Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Principal (Registered Architect): Rick Mather
Associate Partner/Project Architect: Stuart Cade (Registered Architect)
Technical Director (Registered Architect): Chris Wood
Architect (Registered Architect): Richard Keep
Architect (Registered Architect): Juliet Aston
Architect (Registered Architect): Matthew Wickens
Architect (Registered Architect): Noor Abdul Aziz
Architect  (Registered Architect): Luis Trevino
Architect  (Registered Architect): Andy Matthews
Architect  (Registered Architect): Peter Dean
Architectural Assistant: Patrick Berning
Architectural Assistant: Mandy Franz

Structural Engineer: Dewhurst Macfarlane & Partners
Mechanical& Electrical Engineer: Atelier Ten

Lighting: Kevan Shaw Lighting Design
Acoustical: Sandy Brown Associates
Access: David Bonnett Associates
Fire: FiSEC
Specialist lighting consultants: Luxam
Exhibition gallery design: Metaphor
Display case production:     Meyvaert
Project manager: Mace

General contractor:
BAM Construct UK Ltd

Richard Bryant/Arcaid
Tel: +44 (0)20 85464352
Andy Matthews/Rick Mather Architects
Tel: +44 (0)20 72841727

CAD system, project management, or other software used:
Microstation, Bartlett (UCL) Daylight Modelling

The Products

Exterior cladding
Flahive Brickwork
Coleford Brick & Tile Co Ltd

Metal: NDM (Zinc roof)

Steel: OAG

Skylights: MGA
Insulated-panel or plastic glazing: OAG

Entrances: Record UK and Blasi UK
Metal doors: Accent Hansen
Wood doors: Leaderflush

Locksets: Allgood
Hinges: Leaderflush
Closers: Allgood
Exit devices: Zumtobel
Pulls: Allgood
Security devices: AIS

Interior finishes
Cabinetwork and custom woodwork: Benchmark
Paints and stains: Dulux
Wooden floors: Ardern Hodges
Floor and wall tile: Downs Tiles
Resilient flooring: Marmoleum
Carpet: EGE Carpets

Office furniture: Benchmark
Reception furniture: Benchmark
Chairs: Coexistence
Tables: Coexistence

Interior ambient lighting: Mike Stoane
Downlights: Concord
Task lighting: Aktiva
Controls: Andromeda

Accessibility provision (lifts, ramping, etc.): GLC
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