Exciting new look for historic building

By Liz HearnshawTHE rooftop of one of Suffolk's most historic buildings could be transformed into an open-air exhibition space as part of a drive to create a regional centre of excellence for the visual arts.

By Liz Hearnshaw

THE rooftop of one of Suffolk's most historic buildings could be transformed into an open-air exhibition space as part of a drive to create a regional centre of excellence for the visual arts.

Access to the Corn Exchange, in the heart of Bury St Edmunds, could also be improved before the town's popular Art Gallery adopts the premises as its new home in 2006.

Initial plans for the grade II-listed building include altering its entrance to increase the profile of the exhibition space and utilising part of the flat roof to allow more flexible use of the whole premises.


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Architect Kathryn Findlay, who was selected from almost 100 applicants to work on the building, has presented her first ideas for the centre to officials.

Damian Rush, marketing officer for the gallery, said the initial proposals had been well-received by councillors, board members and the public.

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“This was a chance for the architects to share their observations on the actual building and how it fits into Bury St Edmunds,” he added.

“Their thoughts are quite revolutionary and are not being limited by the constraints of the building. It is as if they are starting with a blank piece of paper.

“The response from around 70 people who attended was extremely positive, with audience members even suggesting we take radical ideas one step further. There is a feeling that we have only got one chance to do this, so we may as well go for it.”

Lottery funding for the project has already been approved in principle, while more detailed plans regarding the Corn Exchange are expected by the end of this month.

“The architects feel that any changes to the building should be practical rather than cosmetic, and are looking at how areas such as the roof can be utilised for the benefit of the whole centre,” said Mr Rush.

“We are also concerned about the structure of the building and preserving its integrity, while using modern methods to compliment what is already there.

“Obviously as the Corn Exchange is listed, there will be some constraints to what can be done, but the architects are keen to open up the space and make it more accessible.

“We want to continue the public input in the scheme right the way through, as this is a facility for the whole town. We hope this project will become a major event for the whole region.”

The Art Gallery is moving from its current home, at the Market Cross on the Cornhill, due to disability regulations introduced next year which make its current first floor position impossible to adapt.

The plan for a move to the Corn Exchange was announced last year when proposals for a new public building, designed as the centrepiece of the multi-million pound Cattle Market redevelopment, made the venue surplus to St Edmundsbury Borough Council's requirements.

liz.hearnshaw@eadt.co.uk

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