Archives and education centre telling the story of Cornwall creates a new heritage asset
RIBA South West & Wessex Award winner 2021
Purcell for Cornwall Council
Contract value: £16.5m
Cost per m2: £3,409
When looking for a new home for its internationally important archives Cornwall Council saw it as an opportunity to regenerate a depressed former mining area and expose the archive to wider audiences, creating a new regional visitor heritage asset.
New archives, a learning centre, galleries and café telling the ‘Story of Cornwall’ (Kresen Kernow) are now housed on a once derelict industrial complex, the former Redruth Brewery. The site was riddled with uncharted old mine workings, watercourses and man-made adits, severely blighting the town centre.
The 19th century brewery buildings provide the public facilities. Double height spaces have been retained as the main reception and orientation areas with the other accommodation in galleries around them. The resulting central space has a roof profile that follows the original and is lit by large rooflights. Huge granite floor slabs had their top surface ‘planed’ and were relaid in the public areas. Along with the exposed rubble external walls they help retain the site’s industrial character. A new extension houses the main archive in a crafted box of vertically ribbed concrete. This is linked to the retained original buildings by the conservation labs and workspaces housed in a simple two storey structure echoing the gabled forms it replaces. The chimney acts as a visual ‘fulcrum’ between old and new, rising up through the archivist work areas.
Public realm interventions such as opening up the water courses, paving, street furniture, soft landscaping and an enigmatic new sculpture by ‘Littlewhitehead’ have created a new sense of place around Kresen Kernow.