A TOP architectural critic and author has launched a swingeing attack on the plans for the refurbishment of the Burrell Collection building in Glasgow.

Under the headline “Glasgow is butchering the Burrell” in the respected Architects’ Journal, Robin Ward said that collection operators Glasgow Life’s £66 million refurbishment project is caused by faults with the building designed in the 1970s by architects Barry Gasson, Brit Andresen and John Meunier.

Ward. author of Exploring Glasgow: The Architectural Guide, wrote: “This ‘Renaissance of a world-class museum’ is needed to fix a leaky roof, replace glazing, modernise mechanical and electrical systems, reduce the building’s carbon footprint and reverse a decline in attendance. Spatial interventions will allow more of the collection to be shown than the 20 per cent displayed at any one time previously, and accommodate 21st-century interpretation of it.”

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He continued: “When the building opened it was widely praised and quickly became popular. In 2013 it was Category A-listed by Historic Environment Scotland as being of national and international importance.

“It still seems contemporary, free of stylistic polemics. Unlike the ‘iconic’ museums of recent times it was a model of restraint and tranquility created to serve the collection and the setting, not the egos of the architects.”

In April this year, conceptual plans drawn up by John McAslan + partners (JMP) were given a green light by Glasgow City Council.

Ward stated: “These propose re-landscaping the approach to the building, inserting a new entrance at the end of a promenade bypassing the original foyer, a new and larger gallery shop and a complete redisplay of the collection. The Hutton Rooms, from Hutton Castle, a 16th-century pile near Berwick on Tweed where Burrell lived with his collection, are to be removed to make way for a ‘hub’, despite their presence having been a condition of his bequest.

“The most intrusive intervention is a wide staircase for the crowds of visitors Glasgow Life anticipates, to be implanted to access exhibition space in the former storage zone on the lower ground floor. This radical surgery and the proposed new entrance will seriously compromise the original architectural intent and are controversial.”

Ward claimed the Burrell’s original architects, John Meunier, “wrote to JMP criticising their proposals as ‘unnecessarily destructive’ and unlikely to ‘sustain the seriousness and quality of the original building’. In response, JMP claimed to have “utmost respect for the building and … understand its design intent and significance.”

But in documents supporting its planning application JMP condemned the existing entrance pavilion as “unwelcoming … very church-like and austere and can often be mistaken for a private building”, adding: “This intimidating entrance combined with compromised accessibility into and around the gallery makes for a confusing visitor experience.”

Ward commented: “Last time I looked, the entrance was obvious, and always has been, and the interior spaces arranged with clarity. As for ‘church-like, intimidating’, this misses the point.

“The chapel-like foyer allows a transition from the modern world to Burrell’s treasures from the past. JMP’s surgery also flouts architectural conservation best practice, which requires alterations to historic buildings (the Burrell is now 20th century heritage) to be reversible.

“What ought to be reversed is Glasgow City Council’s approval. John McAslan, having met with John Meunier, has expressed some flexibility. Glasgow Life stated: ‘a further meeting will be arranged this summer to share progress on the detail of the design development.’ Nothing yet, and not a word from Historic Environment Scotland, the supposed guardian of listed buildings.”

Ward concluded: “The original is a modern masterpiece. Leave it alone.”

A spokesman for Glasgow Life said: “After a period of public and statutory consultation, which included liaising with Historic Environment Scotland and other heritage bodies, the Burrell Collection received planning permission and listed building consent in April this year.

“The consented scheme will repair and re-service the building so that its internal environment is, once again, appropriate for displaying a nationally important collection.

“It will also maximise accessibility and connectivity with Pollok Park and ensure the sustainability of the museum.”