The Idea of the Museum
The public function of the building is a museum for exhibiting and studying antiquities. Relics and artefacts being discovered from evidence and excavation of the surrounding landscape. The building itself is part excavation, and a visit to the museum represents a journey to the underworld of ancient times. The permanent exhibition reveals the story from the Post-Medieval time back to unearthed objects of the Mesolithic period. Temporary exhibitions explain current discoveries and future thoughts.
The private functions of the building include research facilities, inviting scholars and researchers to prepare theoretical studies for mineral culture, ethnology, zoology, geology and anatomy, and to carry out conservation work. The institute also acts as a central documentation and archive base for sites around Scotland.
The Setting of the Idea
Stirling was an important place at the start of Scottish history, where some of the most significant developments in the evolution of the Scottish nation occurred. Within the town, many important medieval and renaissance sites remain. Outside, the valley hints at a deeper history of emerging civilisations, its relics once buried in its dangerous marshland.
The site sits at the base of the castle rock, at a point where the town walls break to reveal views over the lower lands of the Forth valley, the Stirling Bridge and Wallace Monument. Within this historic context, investigation has led to the possibility of creative a narrative.
The Narrative of the Elements
Old Town Walls
Through the old town, down to the lower town, old town walls remain forming the route climbing up towards the castle. Along which, different treatments result in differing conditions. Following the walls along the east side of the castle, a story begins at ground level. On passing through the museum tower, the wall becomes the ramped route, and the journey is entered into revealing the story from the sky to the rock. Provoked moments of pause and discovery relate artefacts with connected views of the landscape/town. The Medieval collection steals a glimpse of the Stirling skyline. The journey reveals the Roman formation of routes, terminating in spaces carved of the rock: the Mesolithic/Neolithic. The visitor is also allowed direct access to any particular period by vertical circulation linked to the tower.
The tower marks the entrance point to the museum and is accessed from a high level bridge or street level. Within the museum, light filters through to the depths of the plan. Externally, the visitor may climb the tower or walk across the bridge to the café, with panoramic views of the surrounding valley.
As the roof of the museum falls to the land, a great stair is created, revealing the landscape from which the story below is told. The building becomes an entire outdoor activity and not allows views from it, but is itself an animated view from the castle above.
The Research Bank
As the castle rock banks down to street level, the research facilities bank down to the great stair. Above the level, views are allowed out across the great stair to the land. Below the level, views are through to the museum.
The Temporary Gallery
The temporary gallery joins the skyline and the 20th century, and may be part of the museum route, or a museum in its own right.
The outstanding quality of Grace’s work that marks it out as deserving of submission for the RIBA Silver Medal is its unfussy appropriateness when confronting a very difficult green field site and its skilful use of architectural devices to organise and celebrate a dense complex programme.
Delicacy and skill in the use of materials, mass and lighting mark this work out as exceptionally fine and in this instance, which is not I would suggest the norm, gives a feeling of ‘if only’; if only the scheme was to be built.