At a time of increasing social isolation and inequality, cities need democratic, thriving communal spaces more than ever. Ralph Appelbaum Associates has partnered with Preston City Council and Lancashire County Council to create a new heart for Preston; a ‘cultural hub’ for the city located at the local Harris Museum and Library.
The #HarrisYourPlace project will ‘remake’ The Harris through a new kind of community innovation approach, providing a dedicated space for making, creating, connection, and debate. It aims aim to capture the singular spirit of a city in transformation, enhancing social, mental, and economic wellbeing and defining a new purpose for civic museums today.
“…Cities across the world are looking to us for hope and inspiration.”Simon Thelwall, Preston resident
The project aim is to create a place that is truly – and uniquely – made by Preston, for Preston, and of Preston. By designing in consultation with visitors, ideas, imaginations and actions of local residents will shape the museum from top to bottom in ways that embody the spiritof Preston: inventive, daring, creative and community-activated.
The emerging concept unites the museum, gallery and library as a single service, bringing books, art, historical artefacts and activities into unexpected and playful relationships with one another. At the heart of the Harris, the central Rotunda space will be reimagined as a community forum where visitors can socialise, explore the collection, pick up a book, host a workshop, play games or sit back with a coffee.
The vision is for a new ‘living room’ for the city: a vibrant, busy and dynamic place where visitors can linger, gather, and share thoughts with others, past, present, and future.
In March 2021, #HarrisYourPlace was awarded £4.5m by The National Lottery Heritage Fund: the final piece of the £10m needed to make the project happen, and the result of a huge collaborative effort by the Council, the community and the project team.
Sustained consultation with local community groups, and stakeholders across the library and museum service has shaped the project throughout. Workshopping, which largely took place remotely during the Covid-19 pandemic, highlighted how important it was to have a diversity of voices at the table: meaningful collaboration – even at a distance – was fundamental to shaping a vision that genuinely meets the needs of the whole community. This approach will continue as the project progresses into final stages of design and realisation.