The Spanish Gallery
The Spanish Gallery, the first gallery in the UK dedicated to the art, history and culture of Spain, transforms two previously vacant Grade II listed buildings in Bishop Auckland to create world-class museum space for the Auckland Trust.
Also known as Backhouse Gallery, the Spanish Gallery in Bishop Auckland is both a public gallery displaying Spanish Art and a centre for the study of Spanish and Latin American Art. The low-energy art space forms part of the wider ‘Auckland Project’, a collection of galleries, gardens and other public buildings centred on Auckland Castle.
Housed within two buildings, the Grade II listed Backhouse building and the Barrington building, a former school, the gallery overlooks the Market Place in the centre of Bishop Auckland. The two distinctly different historic buildings were combined and extended with a new-build element to create a series of gallery exhibition spaces including an impressive double height, daylit space for large scale artworks and sculptures. Visitors can now move seamlessly between the buildings, whose interiors have been united.
The building features ten galleries spread over three floors. As well as providing education and research spaces and enabling curatorial management and movement of the collection, the gallery also has a conference suite and shop, with separate restaurant fronting on to the Market Place. The different exhibition spaces are all provided with close environmental controls to achieve both GIS accreditation (Government Indemnity Scheme, facilitating the loan to the Gallery of nationally and internationally significant artwork) and accreditation with Museo Del Prado (a praised museum in central Madrid housing one of the world’s most impressive art collections, a partner of the Auckland Castle Trust - the two organisations have come together to help to establish a centre of excellence for Spanish art, heritage and culture).
Working alongside Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, we provided M&E Engineering, Acoustics and Lighting Design for this project. Our services approach to the scheme uses heat pumps to minimise fossil fuel burning on site. Heat recovery chiller heat pumps enable energy from dehumidification to be reused and provide the required conditions and limit the energy use. The low energy design continues with a new, daylit gallery space. We carried out extensive daylight modelling to advise on the orientation, shape and shading louvres to the rooflights to allow diffuse daylit into the space without any risk of direct glare.
Our design is based around an air treatment plant housed in the existing basement areas. Air distribution has been carefully routed through two risers without detriment to the listed building configuration. Our approach places all active plant in areas that can be accessed from staff only, to make maintenance simple and provide value to spaces that could not otherwise be used.
The exhibition includes significant audio-visual (AV) elements, for which we designed cabling infrastructure that allows the exhibition to incorporate screens, music and dynamic lighting controls at almost any position in any gallery. The AV installations continue into the teaching space incorporated into the previous ‘strong room’ that formed part of the Backhouse Bank, and into the lecture space on the first floor of the Barrington building to provide high quality and engaging educational spaces. Our works also included detailed design of the ground floor restaurant fit out. The inclusion of a tapas bar enhances the offering and entails a ‘theatre kitchen’ with front of house cooking on display. We provided the intensive air treatment needed for the kitchens within the confines of the existing building.
“For many centuries, Bishop Auckland was a thriving market town, but since the demise of the mining industry it has been affected by an economic and social decline. We intend to use art, faith and heritage as a ‘circuit breaker’ to drive regeneration in the local community.” - Jonathan Ruffer, Founder of The Auckland Project