Our project story

The Box, Plymouth.

Arts & Culture

Bringing history to life.

A symbol of regeneration.
Commemorating Mayflower 2020.

Challenge accepted.

Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery was a much-loved tourist spot for over 100 years before it closed in late 2016. To commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower voyage, it underwent a complete redevelopment (along with the former Central Library building and St Luke’s church) to create 'The Box' - a modern, extraordinary space where high-profile art exhibitions, events and displays can be hosted. Now, it takes visitors on a journey from pre-history all the way into our future.

Image credit – The Box & Paul White Photography.

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Plymouth’s stories are the world’s stories, but our incredible heritage has never been fully celebrated - until now.
Tudor Evans OBE, Leader of Plymouth City Council
Challenge

Achieving an equilibrium.

The Box sits within a Grade II listed building so a balance between protecting the structural heritage while installing modern, technical solutions had to be found. With AV, specialist lighting, temperature control and humidity monitored areas, there is a heavy reliance on MEP systems. We needed to create services that would complement The Box’s operation while caring for its extensive collections. As a historic town by nature – we also had to be sensitive to Plymouth’s aesthetic when designing, but also find methods that would ensure its sustainable future.
Approach

Taking the reins.

As technical specialists, we supported the original team of designers. Being brought in half-way meant we had some major problem-solving to do. Our specialist knowledge of complex building service systems helped overcome a several difficult challenges, by maintaining an openness on all decisions, communicating with the main contractor and M&E subcontractor throughout the project. This meant we could clearly explain our solutions and tie them in with the vast amount of services being installed at one time, while building a strong professional relationship with the whole project team.
Technical impact

Protecting artefacts.

Due to the building hosting objects of significant historical interest, it was key that we fitted complex systems across the entire building to ensure their safety. An example of this is the installation of the deep freeze and chilled archives. These rooms are held and controlled at 5 and -20 degrees with low humidity in order to destroy bacteria and reduce the deterioration on precious pieces. As one of the coldest archive stores in the UK, they will preserve historic and valuable materials for years to come, ensuring future generations can view them in the same quality as today.
Human impact

History in technicolour.

The Box is an incredible juxtaposition to the original building and the surrounding area. It is a wonderful illustration of modern regeneration in a historical city that’s embracing the future. Each installation has been thoughtfully installed, with conflicting sound and background noise removed due to our careful spacing. This provides a private, fully immersive and engaging experience for every exhibit. The museum draws on Plymouth’s reputation and expertise in studying the natural world and can now welcome visitors of all ages in an interesting, fun, and comfortable space that gets them excited about their history.
The Box is an archive in the sky that tells the story of Plymouth and its place in the world.
Key Figures
130 exhibits
2 million stored exhibits
8,000 m2

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We are extremely proud to have worked on such a significant project that presents, celebrates, and commemorates a historic moment in the city.
Alex Brown, Senior Engineer

Related specialisms

Mechanical, electrical, and public health (MEP) are...