Re-Imagining the Harris

A dynamic cultural and community hub for the people of Preston and Lancashire
Preston City Council & Lancashire County Council
Type: Urban Design & Visioning
Date: 2016

HemingwayDesign were appointed alongside restoration specialists Purcell to produce design proposals and funding application for a major revamp of Preston’s the Grade I-listed Harris museum, art gallery and library.

The £10.7 million project, led by Preston City Council and dubbed ‘Re-Imagining the Harris’, will restore and expand the James Hibbert-designed 1893 complex. The museum’s collection includes paintings by Lucian Freud and Graham Sutherland, and a 13,500-year-old Ice Age elk skeleton.


The Vision

The scheme, which will bring together museum, library and art gallery collections and services, includes opening up existing but disused entrances and reconfiguration of the interior, as well as creating a new staircase and lift. With the role of museums and libraries in a period of evolution as societal behaviour and expectations continues to change at a rapid pace, we wanted to create an animated cultural and community hub for the people of Preston and Lancashire, allowing Harris to reach new and more diverse audiences, while encouraging visitors to connect with its important collections in new ways.

Our work was focused on reimagining the Harris as a warehouse and factory of ideas; a place where people come to think and to collaborate – in cultural activities but also on wider enterprise and public service themes. The core approach considers the flexibility and animation of the space, designing a journey through the building that will provide spontaneous encounters with art, artefacts, literature, performance and participative activity. Improved entrances on Lancaster Road and Market Square will connect the Harris to its neighbours and public realm spaces as well create a highly porous ‘walk-through’ building that draws the public into its heart and allows Harris activity to spill outside of its confines.


HemingwayDesign has made a major contribution to the Re-Imagining the Harris project. They were a natural choice to provide an interior design proposal as part of the wider ambition of undertaking a major capital redevelopment of the Harris Museum, Art Gallery and Library. We had developed an innovative vision of a seamless and community led Harris which HemingwayDesign quickly got to grips with. They worked closely with Preston City Council and Lancashire County Council, as well as other members of the project team to develop an exciting and dynamic design for the interior of the Harris which proactively linked to other developments across the city centre. HemingwayDesign provided a range of innovative and highly creative ideas on how the vision could be turned into reality that impressed funders, stakeholders and staff alike.

Jon Finch, Re-Imagining the Harris – Project Leader, Preston City Council