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Purcell led the development of the new county archive for Cornwall, developing a state-of-the-art facility which houses the world’s largest collection of documents, books, maps, and photographs related to Cornwall, dating from 1150 to the present day.

Located at the heart of the “Cornish Mining” World Heritage Site, the project renovated and extended the former brewery buildings, revitalising a previously derelict site that had suffered from several acts of arson, and many years of neglect. By recognising the potential quality and character of the site, Purcell were able to renovate and extend the historic structures, to create vibrant contemporary spaces for archival, exhibition and educational purposes.

A particular challenge of the project was not just that the buildings were extremely derelict, but the site contained a number of redundant mine shafts and adits, many of which were uncharted, and concealed from sight beneath the buildings. A key element of the project involved remediation of the site, to solve this issue.

Niall Phillips, Partner

The renovated buildings provide a suite of public search rooms, conservation and preservation workshops, exhibition spaces, education rooms, and associated staff and volunteer facilities, whilst a new two storey extension provides archive storage in closely controlled environmental conditions, designed to BS5454 conservation standard.

The exterior of the new extension is finished in elegantly detailed precast concrete panels, and copper cladding, designed to be a robust yet discrete addition to the historic buildings. Across the first floor, the staff work rooms are naturally illuminated by generously sized windows, supplemented by a large rooflight, framing a view of the historic chimney that towers high above the new extension.

Since opening to the public in September 2019, the staff and public have appreciated the quality of the refurbished, extended buildings, and have welcomed a diverse range of visitors, to enjoy the building, its collections and events. It’s wonderful to see the historic buildings brought back to life, securing their use for others to enjoy, and providing a catalyst for further development on the remainder of the site.

David Burne, Senior Architect

The historic brewery buildings have been transformed by reinstating previously infilled window openings, to provide light and spacious interiors, whilst a new oak staircase links the ground floor exhibition space with the first floor reading rooms, animated by natural lighting from a new glass roof constructed above. By undertaking the project to BIM Level 2 has enabled Purcell to work in close collaboration with the project team to achieve the client’s objectives.

We took care in selecting our Architects, and we are pleased that we selected Purcell. They have successfully delivered the requirements of our brief and have met what we consider to be our key project objectives. The National Lottery Heritage Fund, our key partner, is delighted by the heritage and community outcomes the project has delivered.

Deborah Tritton, Project Leader, Cornwall Council

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