Fort Nelson, Portsmouth
The process of redevelopment involved close consultation with many stakeholders including English Heritage, The Palmerston Fort Society, Winchester Conservation Department, Natural England and various other local action groups. It needed first to bring together an understanding of the Fort and the requirements of the Armouries.
Several years of rapid visitor growth at Fort Nelson highlighted key limiting factors that were starting to hinder both audience numbers and the ability to interpret the fort and its collection. Primarily, the physical layout and size of the key galleries and visitor facilities were no longer able to cope with the level of demand. Secondly, a large part of the collection was housed in a temporary tented structure with no environmental controls in which some of the main items of the collection where deteriorating.
After a Conservation Plan was generated and agreed on, a master plan was developed in line with the main issues indicated above which highlighted various potential projects. This was then aligned to a funding plan and the project put into realisation on award of a £2 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The design involved turning the museum on its head by creating a new exciting entrance to the museum across an existing draw bridge that used to be only used as the staff entrance. The following headline improvements were achieved by this project:
- Providing two very different buildings in sites with complicated planning constraints (in or adjacent to an Ancient Scheduled Monument and in a Site of special scientific interest).
- The creation of an impressive new entrance gallery to provide an instant “wow factor” upon entering the museum.
- The sensitive refurbishment of the interior galleries of the existing Ancient Scheduled Monument to enhance visitor experience and provide state of the art educational facilities.
- The provision of a new visitor centre that increases the capacity of the shop and provides a modern café that is open to both the museums visitors and the general public, maximising the potential of the commercial activities on the site.
- The provision of a new carpark, including DDA compliant spaces to make the museum more easily accessible to all.
- The sensitive use of materials to ensure that both buildings are in harmony with their context.
- The provision of DDA compliant facilities and platform lift to make the whole of the fort fully accessible to all.
- The use of sustainable materials, passive and low energy environmental strategies to create a low cost, sustainable building.