Atkins create ‘archive in the sky’
South west England’s largest cultural centre set to open in 2020
An ‘archive in the sky’ featuring Europe’s largest unsupported cantilevered structure has been built in Plymouth as part of The Box development, which is transforming the city’s former museum, gallery and library. The Box will become the biggest cultural centre in south west England when it opens, with an inaugural exhibition commemorating the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower ship setting sail from the city’s docks.
Created by Atkins, the contemporary archive building features a dramatic façade that sits alongside the refurbished Grade II listed buildings. When the plans for The Box were submitted, James Harrison, Atkins’ design director for the project, said: “Our architects and heritage experts want to retain the history of the buildings while adding a modern twist. Our designs will help celebrate the past and engage a 21st century audience.”
The lower part of the modern extension is constructed from limestone blocks with a glazed façade, while the archive above is cantilevered over the entrance. Designed as a modern-day take on a cabinet of curiosities, the 900 sqm box is clad in panels, all portrait-proportioned to represent the pages held within the archive. Made by Kingspan Facades, the white, grey, black and stainless-steel panels are mixed to bring variety. The mirrored elements reflect changing light and cloud conditions, seeming to animate the surface.
Nicola Moyle, head of heritage, art and film at The Box, praised the designers for successfully interpreting the brief to preserve the past while looking to the future, stating: “The finished result is a brilliant combination of historic and contemporary architecture that makes a real statement for the city and, most importantly, reflects exactly what we’re all about.”
The Box will open at a date yet to be determined, after the original launch on 16th May was cancelled due to ongoing restrictions to prevent the spread of coronavirus.