Reconfiguration work commences at Isle of Lewis museum

Renovation and reconfiguration works at the Comunn Eachdraidh Nis museum on the Isle of Lewis are due to start in mid-March.

Funding has been sourced from a wide range of organisations to enable the £1 million project to proceed. Following a public procurement process towards the end of 2017, the successful contractor Neil Mackay & Co is due to move on site in the next two weeks.

In 1878, Cross Primary School was constructed on the Isle of Lewis featuring a large school-masters house, and three classrooms arranged in a horseshoe configuration. Although this typology was typical for its time, Cross School remains one of the last of its kind in existence.

These buildings have been extended several times over its history, with parts currently in a state of dereliction. The Commun Eachdraidh took over the buildings from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar in 2011 and converted them to a museum, archive and artefact storage facilities as well as housing a café. Despite this, the buildings remain mostly cellular in nature and without the open inviting nature and configuration necessary of a modern museum facility.

Comunn Eachdraidh Nis appointed BARD Ailteir as architects and lead consultants to develop proposals. The proposals make incisions into the existing buildings where required, allowing spaces to be opened up to allow greater flexibility of use. Some partial demolition will take place, with extensions added to create an open frontage whilst still allowing light to penetrate deep into the plan.

BARD have been careful to ensure that these works do not diminish the character of the existing buildings. The new buildings vary in height, ensuring the parent volumes remain dominant whilst also providing a special sequence that is additive in nature. The existing fenestration pattern is, wherever possible retained and adapted when required to form new access points.

Annie Macsween, chairperson of Comunn Eachdraidh Nis, said: “The renovation of these buildings has been a goal since the organisation relocated to the former Cross Primary School in 2011. Comunn Eachdraidh Nis has a strong track-record and reputation for delivering innovative projects over many years. It is a great example of what can be achieved when a community works together to develop a facility designed to benefit themselves and visitors to the area.”

Ruairidh Moir, architect for the project, said: “It has been a great privilege to be involved in this very exciting and transformative project for Comunn Eachdraidh Nis. We feel that the project as envisaged will be of huge benefit to the wider community, and also secure the former Sgoil Chrois building for future generations.”

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