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Burrell architect shares 'mixed' feelings following remodelling work

December 16 2022

Burrell architect shares 'mixed' feelings following remodelling work

John Meunier, one of the architects behind Glasgow’s A-listed Burrell Museum, has shared his perspective on the recent renovation and interventions carried out by John McAslan & Partners.

In a series of podcasts for the Scottish Historic Archives Meunier, now emeritus professor of architecture at Arizona State University, converses with architect and artist Alan Dunlop to discuss the story behind one of the few post-war buildings to be A-listed.

Asked whether the original vision had been respected in episode three, A Curate's Egg, Meunier: "The Walk in the Woods has hardly changed and there is a lot of respect there."

Turning to the education and outreach elements of the museum the architects impressions soured: "When I visited the temporary exhibition gallery was empty and the lecture theatre has been destroyed. I don't know how the museum is supposed to function without a lecture theatre. It's been replaced by an open amphitheatre and as a lecturer, I know it would be very difficult to teach there.

"I'm more sympathetic to the decision to limit the number of reconstructed rooms from Hutton Castle to one because they did pose a challenge to the curators. You expect to see the objects under museum conditions and can't when they are dotted around the room. On the other hand, the idea of understanding how the collection was assembled by a single figure has been undermined."

Tackling the controversy around the formation of a new entrance Meunier believes these issues are now being resolved with the majority still entering via the original but is critical of the winter garden, describing it as an 'empty railway station waiting room'.

Moreover Meunier believes the primary justification for the work as cited by Glasgow Life, that the fabric of the Burrell had failed, would not have been the case with proper maintenance: "Most buildings leak after 25 years, they need constant maintenance. The Burrell suffered from benign neglect."

The full series of interviews are now available to listen to on Spotify.

Meunier had conflicted feelings about the revamped Burrell on a recent visit
Meunier had conflicted feelings about the revamped Burrell on a recent visit
The original south elevation of the Burrell
The original south elevation of the Burrell


Nairns Bairn
#1 Posted by Nairns Bairn on 17 Dec 2022 at 13:30 PM
We re-visited this summer, and I agree with everything Mr Meunier says. His criticisms are not harsh, and all fair.

The auditorium, now open to the museum, will prove difficult to actually use; it is in effect a grand stairway down to the café, though if considered as such it is an impressive space (albeit a bit wasteful).

And it was good to see the original entrance still being used by the majority of visitors - it is the closest to the car park after all, and is the most (only?) celebrated entrance door.

The opening up of additional first floor areas over the new shopping arcade were a positive introduction and offered internal views of the building not seen before.

In improving access for bus parties and increasing the retail area, the Burrell certainly hasn't been ruined - it is still a fantastic place to spend the day (particularly in conjunction with Pollock House and Park). It is both an interesting and a calming space to spend time in.

Compare and contrast with Dundee's V&A which, even allowing for its smaller size, offers very little in the way of a positive visitor experience.
#2 Posted by Roddy_ on 19 Dec 2022 at 20:05 PM
If you are familiar with the narrative of the plan of the Burrell and the various thresholds, miradors and points of contemplation not to mention the lyrical relationship between the high light and low light galleries, the new entrance in the middle of the building is a curious - and for many- frankly unnecessary accretion that short-circuits and therefore ruins the whole idea of the promenade architectural. I wonder how this - as the piece reports- is being addressed ?
I'd also agree with Meunier that the basement gallery and adjaceent, open-stepped viewing platform is a strange kind of cul-de-sac too.
Having said that, there is still enough of the wow factor in the woodland walk and elsewhere to overcome these deficiencies. The refurbished exhibits are absoulutely knock out and the curation of the objects is tremendous.
Neil C
#3 Posted by Neil C on 19 Dec 2022 at 21:30 PM
I too think professor Meunier makes fair and rational comment. The quality of the still shines through despite the remodelling. Congratulations to Archives Scotland and messrs Dunlop and Pelan for getting this conversation now on record.
Ben Cunningham
#4 Posted by Ben Cunningham on 20 Dec 2022 at 18:55 PM
The new entrance form the "piazza" has failed terribly that is true. I am puzzled how any architect, with apparent design sensibility could think it would be better. Like Professor Meunier I was delighted to see that the original entrance was still considered to be the way in and the best way to experience the Burrell museum from the start. Also the grey and featureless basement gallery, created by the removal of the lecture room is hardly worth a visit. But the improvements have not spoiled such a great building, I agree. It came close. The digital displays are very much an imposition and in some cases overwhelming I agree but an all together excellent podcast. Thank you Scottish Archives and Professor Meunier
Mary Hill
#5 Posted by Mary Hill on 21 Dec 2022 at 09:53 AM
Great podcast. As alluded to in the podcast, there's a bit of mystique around the three original designers. Very interesting to hear about John Meunier's career, but it would have also been interesting to hear a bit more about Brit and Barry's lives after the Burrell. Also, interestingly Brit's role in the project wasn't discussed much in the podcast.
#6 Posted by A.H. on 21 Dec 2022 at 10:50 AM
#5 Agreed but otherwise genuinely excellent podcasts. Thanks for publishing Urban Realm. Thank you also John Meunier, John Pelan and Alan Dunlop.

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