Purcell’s Cornwall archive centre breathes new life into the historic Redruth Brewery complex
Designed by Purcell, Cornwall’s new archive centre, Kresen Kernow (Cornwall Centre) safeguards the historic Redruth Brewery building at the heart of the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site. The project brings together the world’s largest source of information and artefacts recording the people, places, history and culture of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
Closed since 2004, Redruth Brewery comprised a collection of derelict industrial buildings dating back more than 200 years. Successive arson attacks in 2011 and 2013 devastated the interiors, reducing several of the structures to little more than debris-filled shells. Purcell’s approach to the restoration and adaptation of the site draws influence from the strong visual appeal of the historic fabric. The design team was particularly keen to retain the remaining structures and rejuvenate the interiors in order to provide spaces for contemporary exhibition and library uses.
A new, two-storey environmentally controlled archive store incorporating 23 kilometres of racking has been added to the complex. Conceived as a robust yet discrete counterpoint to the existing building, it is clad in precast concrete panels.
Reaching a height of 33-metres, the tapered 1930s brick chimney has been retained at the heart of the new extension. Uplighters installed at roof level illuminate the structure, making it visible from the town and surrounding area at night.
A copper-clad addition projects beyond the confines of the original building and accommodates a display area at first floor level. The structure also provides an external focal point close to the site entrance.
Elsewhere, previously infilled openings have been reopened and fitted with new hardwood windows and glazed screens. A number of original cast iron columns have been salvaged from the fire-torn building and incorporated in a new steel frame that supports the first floor and roof, as well as provides lateral restraint to the historic walls. Modern render and plaster coverings have been successfully removed from the stonework, with original granite flagstones carefully lifted and re-laid within the new ground-floor exhibition space. Brick gable walls at high level have also been reinstated, based on historic records.