New firm to lead architectural design of £58m transformation of Liverpool museums

Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios (FCBStudios) has been appointed to progress the redevelopment of the International Slavery Museum and Maritime Museum.

The world-renowned design firm will develop the proposals for the Dr Martin Luther King Jr building and the Hartley Pavilion, building on the momentum already generated on this important strand of the Waterfront Transformation Project.

The redevelopment will see the Dr Martin Luther King Jr Building become a prominent new entrance to the International Slavery Museum, creating not only improved visitor orientation and an inspiring welcome, but also a stronger sense of purpose and identity for the museum. 

The building will be multi-functional, serving as a space for community collaboration, events, and learning and participation activity too. The Hartley Pavilion will benefit from improved circulation for visitors with enhanced commercial facilities, including a shop, café, events spaces and a dynamic temporary exhibition space.  

The transformed International Slavery Museum and Maritime Museum will centre people – past, present and future, local, national and international – to create dynamic, welcoming spaces that meaningfully address contemporary issues. The national collections of both museums will be elevated through this new redevelopment. 

Those whose lives have been most affected by the histories being told will play an integral role in the development of both museums. 

Ralph Appelbaum Associates, who were appointed in 2022, continue to lead on the exhibition design for both museums.

Laura Pye, Director of National Museums Liverpool, said, “To be bringing two such visionary designers with international reputations to the project represents the bold ambition and thinking behind it. We are delighted they’re keen to embrace this as a co-production project which we feel will create something truly ground-breaking. 

“There has never been a more important time to address the legacies of the transatlantic slavery and the redevelopment of the International Slavery Museum symbolises our, and our region’s, commitment to confronting the significant role the city played in British imperialism.

“Alongside the revitalisation of the Maritime Museum and the wider Canning Dock development, which will bring a renewed focus on Liverpool’s rich maritime history and communities, the project will create a holistic exploration of the heritage of the Liverpool waterfront, as well as a world-class visitor experience.”

(L-R) Peter Clegg (FCBS), Kudzai Matsvai (University of Liverpool), Kossy Nnachetta (FCBS), Geoff Rich (FCBS) and Ilze Wolff (University of Liverpool) Credit: Pete Carr

The FCBStudios team will be led by partner, Kossy Nnachetta, who has been with the practice for 10 years, supported by Geoff Rich and Peter Clegg. Kossy is passionate about community design and has delivered several schools and community projects.

Kossy said, “FCBS are excited and humbled by the invitation to join the NML team and to lead the architectural transformation of these museums. We understand that there is huge responsibility to help create a platform to tell this story, long whispered, yet still awaiting the space to fully express itself; and all the potent, deep-seated emotions it can elicit. We hope to help create something bold and yet beautiful. The result of ‘many hands’ working together with the museums and communities in Liverpool.”

FCBStudios will also be working with key members of the University of Liverpool School of Architecture in facilitating the co-production of the designs. The team will include Head of School, Professor Ola Uduku, the school’s most recent professorial appointment, Professor Ilze Wolff, who is also a distinguished South African architect and founding partner of Wolff Architects, as well as EDI specialist, architectural designer, and PhD candidate Kudzai Matsvai.

All three women have engaged in research and creative practices around the issues of gender, race, slavery, colonialism and imperialism and seek ways to transform society to be more equal, anti-racist and free.   

FCBStudios has worked with National Museums Liverpool previously, completing the original masterplan for its waterfront sites in 2019 and supporting the International Slavery Museum and Maritime Museum Project’s bid to the National Heritage Lottery Fund Heritage Horizon Awards programme in 2020. 

Colleagues at National Museums Liverpool were joined by community stakeholders for the selection and appointment of FCBStudios, including the co-chair of its RESPECT Group. 

This project is made possible with the generous support of £9.9million from The National Lottery Heritage Fund with thanks to National Lottery players. 

Lead image: Dr Martin Luther King Jr building and the Hartley Pavilion in Royal Albert Dock. Credit: Ant Clausen

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