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Construction firm completes £3.4m revamp of Bristol’s oldest art gallery

Construction firm Beard has completed a £3.4m revamp of Bristol’s oldest art gallery.

Refurbishment of the Royal West of England Academy (RWA) in Clifton – which first opened to the public in 1858 – began in May last year, with the aim to improve the accessibility of the grade II-listed building

The extra space and access created through the work – including the installation of a new external lift – means the attraction is now able to welcome 40% more visitors a year.

Beard, which itself is 130-years-old, said it had undertaken urgent structural repairs to the roof and stonework.

The renovation also included a remodelling of the Victorian building’s façade, improvements to the retail and reception area, the replacement of two vast gallery roof lanterns, the enlargement of the current café, as well as the installation of new electrics, lighting, underfloor heating, toilets, changing facilities and a new catering kitchen.

Six huge arched windows have had the sills and brickwork under them removed to create full-length glass doors, allowing light to penetrate into the space and enhancing accessibility to the front of the building.

The new, ceramic-clad, three-metre-height lift can carry four wheelchair users and their carers. It will also help the RWA’s management of rare, valuable pieces of art, as previously paintings and sculptures had to be transported up to the first-floor gallery via the main stone staircase.

The work represented another significant contract in the heritage sector for family-run Beard, which is headquartered in Swindon but also has an office in Bristol.

The £144m turnover firm carried out a £5m refurbishment of a nearby grade II-listed Georgian building for the University of Bristol on nearby Berkley Square, and it is currently working on a £6.2m restoration of Bath’s historic Cleveland Pools lido.

Mike Hedges, director of construction firm Beard, said: “Buildings such as the RWA are much more than just bricks and mortar, and to be trusted to work on such a historic building is a real honour.”

RWA director Alison Bevan said the refurbishment was the biggest seen in the gallery’s 175-year history.

Ms Bevan added: “Without this work, we would have faced the risk of having to close our doors permanently.

“There has been significant repair work to make the building safe, such as replacing the roof lanterns and lift, but it’s also provided us with the opportunity to completely reimagine our spaces and create an environment that is completely welcoming and accessible to everyone.”

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Source: www.business-live.co.uk

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