HLF: Shaping a Modern Scotland

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A common and perhaps nigglingly lingering misconception is that the business of heritage preservation involves, for the most part, putting roofs back on churches. Of course, that’s not to say that saving religious buildings should be in any way a tertiary concern, clearly they an important part of our historic legacy. However, safeguarding the nation’s heritage, a not inconsiderable task that is facilitated to a great degree by the Heritage Lottery Fund, involves so much more. As a cursory glance at the HLF funded projects that have recently emerged the length and breadth of the country will attest.

The ‘H’ word (Heritage) may not necessarily conjure images of the soaring, snaking metallic form of Glasgow’s new Riverside Museum; or the state of the art facilities at the Royal Botanic Gardens’ John Hope Gateway in Edinburgh; nor indeed the sustainable and site sympathetic contemporary vernacular forms of the Highland Archive and Registration Centre in Inverness and the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway. Yet, all these recent high profile national projects, effectively helping to shape Scotland’s modern architectural landscape, have collectively enjoyed around £38 million of Heritage Lottery Funding.

We’re serious contributors to good modern architecture in Scotland but the word heritage carries all sorts of connotations,” explains Colin McLean, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund, Scotland. “Obviously, everything we do is concerned with our past heritage, but in a number of cases we’ve invested a considerable amount of money in many new buildings and new interventions and some very adventurous new architecture, the Riverside Museum perhaps being the most obvious example.

The Heritage Lottery Fund, which was set up by Parliament in 1994 to give grants to a wide range of local, regional and national heritage projects, is the largest dedicated funder of the UK’s heritage. Over the last 17 years the HLF has awarded over £186 million for the conservation of nearly 2,000 historic buildings and monuments, including key cultural landmarks such as the recent refurbishment of the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh and the restoration of Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, which received £17.7 million and £13 million HLF grants respectively. Additionally, HLF grants have contributed £46.6m to 294 natural heritage projects and £20.6m to 17 Landscape Partnership (LP) schemes in Scotland.

Yet, and perhaps more surprisingly, £95.7m of HLF funding has also been invested in new and innovative architectural projects for Scotland. Including the organisation’s largest single investment of £20.15 million for the new Riverside Museum in Glasgow, the first major public commission, in her adopted country, by Iraq born and UK based Pritzker Prize winning architect Zaha Hadid.

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Above Images: Riverside Museum, Glasgow ©�Culture and Sport Glasgow (Museums)

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Riverside Museum, Glasgow © Lenny Warren / Warren Media

The £74 million museum, a structural tour de force that opened to the public in June 2011, is now home to one of Glasgow’s best loved municipal collections featuring the city’s transport, engineering and shipbuilding legacy. The soaring smooth-skinned zinc and glass museum with zigzagging z-shaped roof, providing a spectacular support to what is effectively a column-free monumental shed, houses a collection of more than 3000 objects that can be frequently changed due to the openness and flexibility of the building’s design. And the success of the new museum is already palpable, as its target audience of 800,000 visitors for its first year has already been broken in its fourth month of opening (the museum has received 872,000 visitors as of 20th October 2011).

Riverside Museum is an example of using great creative energies to come up with fantastic solutions to difficult heritage problems,” continues Colin McLean. “Having helped fund the renovation of Kelvingrove, with the Riverside we now have a new museum as good any in the world. I think it’s interesting that an organisation that’s portrayed as only being concerned with old stuff, has awarded its single biggest grant to one of Scotland’s best new buildings.

Riverside Museum’s Project Director Lawrence Fitzgerald is unequivocal in his view of the importance of the grant and the wider role of the HLF in helping to steer the project throughout its six-year development.

Big projects like the Riverside have a long lifetime. The objectives were agreed in 2005 and delivered in 2011, and I feel that the HLF helped us as clients to safeguard the project as it progressed, almost like the role of a mentor – that’s what the relationship felt like. HLF have been very supportive and on a project of this scale that support and understanding is invaluable. It had a massive impact on the successful outcome of the project.

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Above Images: John Hope Gateway, Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh © Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

This is a view is shared by Heather Jackson, Director of Enterprise at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, in relation to another recent high profile project – the award winning John Hope Gateway, which opened to the public in November 2009. Located at the entrance to Edinburgh’s Botanic Garden, the much feted £13.8 million building by Edward Cullinan Architects, which received a HLF grant of £3.1 million, features exhibitions, a media studio, indoor and outdoor education spaces, shops, a restaurant and a 60m curved glass wall looking out onto a new bio-diversity garden.

HLF support has been crucial to the success of the award-winning John Hope Gateway visitor centre at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE), where annual visitor numbers have increased by more than a third since opening to the public in 2009,” explains Heather Jackson. “In backing this ambitious project the HLF has helped implement a powerful tool for the Garden to significantly extend its public outreach and widen awareness of it both as a beautiful place to relax and as an internationally important scientific research institute.

While HLF support for heritage projects – including the restoration of our own Victorian Fernery at Benmore Botanic Garden – is well known, the importance of its commitment to contemporary architecture must not be underestimated.

Embarking on the construction of major building in a precious landscape within one of Edinburgh’s favourite places was always going to be a big responsibility. Yet, with the backing of our funders, we were able to create a world-class facility capable of opening up our outstanding collections for visitors to enjoy while also providing state-of-the-art restaurant, shop and learning facilities previously unavailable to us. The significance of the £3.1million Heritage Lottery Fund grant was immense.

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Highland Archive and Registration Centre © HARC

One month before the opening of the John Hope Gateway, in October 2009, another key contemporary heritage building was unveiled in Inverness, providing the Highland community with a vital, and hitherto elusive, resource. The new £10.5 million Highland Archive and Registration Centre by local Forres based LDN Architects, features a three storey repository block providing a secure and environmentally controlled environment housing archives relating to all aspects of the history of the Highlands. In addition, a two-storey block, connected by a light filled entrance and orientation area, contains spaces where the archive material can be made accessible to the public – for the first time under one roof.

The Highland Archive and Registration Centre is a modern building and designed by local architects, and was the result of many years of aiming for a purpose built archive centre,” explains Highland Council Archivist, Susan Beckley. “Previously, we didn’t have any premises, and only had restricted public access in the Inverness Library, with all the document storage areas located around six different buildings in Inverness.

The project was part of the lasting legacy of Highland 2007 – the year long celebration of Scotland’s Highland culture. We applied to HLF for £4.3 million match funding and had we not received this I don’t believe that the £10.5 million project would have gone ahead, certainly not on the grand scale that it did. It was like rags to riches really!

The new building benefits the public tremendously, because now they don’t have to order records in advance, they can just come in and everything’s on site. And of course we’ve been able to build in different facets of our service that we didn’t have before, such as a family history centre and conservation studio. We share the building with the Registrar, so this means that we can provide a joined up family history service. There have been benefits on all sorts of fronts. The whole service has been transformed.

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Above images: Robert Burns Birthplace Museum © National Trust for Scotland

A similar transformative effect has been felt, this time in Alloway, with a new building that also has an important collection at its heart, specifically the legacy of Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns. Arriving amid much fanfare in January 2011, the National Trust for Scotland’s new Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway houses the world’s most important collection of Burns life and works, with the museum forming the centrepiece for all of the Alloway sites with a connection to Burns, including the Burns Monument, Alloway Auld Kirk, Auld Brig O’Doon and Burns Cottage, the poet’s birthplace. The purpose built £21 million building, designed by Edinburgh architects Simpson & Brown, is also seen as an ecological exemplar in terms of its sustainable and passive solar design and has already received Best Permanent Exhibition category at the Museums and Heritage Awards in London in May, as well as being awarded five-star Visitor Attraction status within a record short time of opening.

Kate Mavor, Chief Executive of the National Trust for Scotland outlines the importance of this new museum, and describes the key involvement of the HLF in realising the Burns vision.

Along with the Scottish Government, the Heritage Lottery Fund was instrumental in realising the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum. Not only was HLF a major funder – contributing over £5 million to the project – but it was also instrumental in facilitating a review of the governance and ownership of the various Burns assets in Alloway that have now been drawn together under the aegis of the National Trust for Scotland as the Birthplace Museum. HLF’s proactive involvement from an early stage helped both provide a sound foundation for the project and essential resources to deliver it.

From an early stage, HLF recognized not only the significance of the collection held in Alloway but also the value of creating a sustainable building to house it locally – within the landscape that had helped to shape both Burns and his work. The level of funding received from HLF and the Scottish Government meant that options to remove the collection for safekeeping to other, existing institutions could be dismissed and a new, purpose-built museum created; complete with all the facilities to support interpretation, learning, research and preservation of an internationally important literary collection. In addition, the funding also helped restore and reinterpret the wider site – including a re-interpretation of Burns Cottage and creation of new, dedicated education facilities – turning the whole of the Burns heritage in Alloway into a resource to support regeneration, learning and creative engagement.

HLF’s funding has allowed us to be innovative in our approach – introducing new ways of presenting the collection and connecting the past to contemporary creativity. One very important area of innovation for NTS, as a conservation charity, is sustainable building design. The architecture of the new museum combines various green features – from its green timber construction, to ground-sourced earth energy and natural ventilation. This innovation has been recognised by awards for sustainable engineering; for exhibition design and, for the overall project, as a finalist in the 2011 Art Fund Prize for Museums.

Of course, we have received a wide range of support for the project, from a great many people – but it is fair to say that, without HLF’s contribution, not only would Alloway lack a new museum, but also there is a very strong chance that the collection itself would no longer be sustainable in Ayrshire – and the vital link between Burns’s birthplace and his enduring legacy would be broken.

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New Abbotsford Visitor Centre with Abbotsford House in the distance © The Abbotsford Trust

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New Abbotsford Visitor Centre © The Abbotsford
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TrustAbbotsford Visitor Centre Cafe © The Abbotsford Trust

Another of Scotland’s literary Leviathans, Sir Walter Scott, and more specifically his house and Romantic gardens at Abbotsford, is currently undergoing a modern intervention involving a major restoration as well as the construction of a new purpose built visitor reception building. One of Scotland’s key visitor attractions, Abbotsford is unlike any of the homes of other great writers as it was designed by Scott himself. As a result, the project had to be approached with the utmost care and consideration, according to Jason Dyer, Chief Executive of The Abbotsford Trust.

The brief given to the architects was that the building should sit sensitively within this landscape, and as a result it is located within the hollow of a hill. The new building is a clever glass and wood design that means it’s almost transparent, and the timber blends into the surrounding woods. So although the building is contemporary it is also very sensitively done.

The new £11.68 million visitor reception building, which received a HLF £4.85 million grant, has been designed by LDN Architects and is due for completion in April 2012. The main house restoration just started in October 2011 and is due to open to the public in Spring 2013.

The visitor centre will make a huge difference, continues Dyer. The current problem with Abbotsford is that the main tourist route into the building is down a very steep precipice. This was added in the 1850’s so the route is historic in its own right as it’s a very early example of a tourist intervention in a historic house. But it was bringing tourists into the basement through a very unattractive route, and there is no lift. So if you have any sort of impairment it is a very difficult route to follow through the house. The new visitor centre will provide proper facilities for visitors to prepare them for what they are about to see at the house. It will also house an exhibition on Sir Walter Scott. Additionally, there’s the commercial benefit in terms of shop and café – before, our café had only 20 covers and now it will offer 120.

Without the HLF grant, I don’t believe that the project would have happened. The HLF grant has acted almost like a blue kite mark, in that once the project went through the HLF process, which is rigorous, it encouraged other funders to come on board. I’m quite clear that we wouldn’t have released any of the other funding without the rubber stamp that we received from the HLF.

The impact of these new national projects cannot be underestimated, particularly for the country’s tourist industry, which contributes £1.4 billion to the Scottish economy. In terms of providing jobs, construction of the Riverside Museum alone supported 1,200 paid staff, and located, as it is, on a once blighted post-industrial Clyde side site, the new museum is also something of a defining moment in Glasgow’s urban renewal and regeneration, which is particularly prescient set against the current challenging economic backdrop.

Inevitably, the current recession has also had repercussions on the current funding climate, with HLF unsurprisingly experiencing a huge demand in terms of enquiries and applications. However, the good news is that buoyant lottery ticket sales and an increased share in ‘good causes’ income means that the organisation is able to continue its work unabated, and indeed it has responded to the market downturn by relaxing procedures including match-funding requirements to help enable potential applicants. So, the message is that there is a continued commitment to attracting projects of the calibre of Riverside, John Hope Gateway, Highland Archive, Burns Museum and Abbotsford.

We encourage everyone seeking funding to talk to us as early as possible and if the solution turns out to be a new build then that’s the solution that we will approve,” concludes Colin McLean. “Of course we do a great deal of work supporting historic buildings. But there is no reason why new architecture can’t be a part of that equation.

© Heritage Lottery Fund

From every pound spent on National Lottery tickets, 28p goes directly to the following good causes for the benefit of communities across the UK. The money is allocated to good causes in the following way:
charities, health, education the environment: 46%;
sports: 18%;
arts: 18%;
heritage 18%;

There are currently 14 Lottery Funders who independently decide which projects have successfully applied for a grant. Each is independent of Government but has to follow guidelines when deciding who should receive National Lottery funding.

Main image: John Hope Gateway, Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh © Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

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