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Purcell’s scheme to transform The Story Museum in Oxford, UK wins planning approval


Plans to create a ‘cathedral of stories’ in Oxford have been given the green light by the city’s planning committee. Purcell Architects was selected as the winners of the competition to transform The Story Museum. The plans were recently approved by an unanimous committee which will reinvent three existing buildings around a central courtyard in a £11.5 million project. The project aim is to create an international visitor attraction celebrating storytelling in all its forms and supporting children’s learning through story. The facilities will include exhibition and performance spaces, learning and creative play areas, a ‘fantasy library’, café and shop.

The Museum’s co-director Kim Pickin said: “This marks a new chapter in the Museum’s progress from pauper to princess – and brings us another step closer to the palace. We’re delighted that our vision for a world centre of story has been endorsed by the city of Oxford.”

Permission was granted to refurbish, repair and upgrade all the existing buildings and courtyard. Alterations to the main street elevation have been designed to announce an entrance into the site in addition to new lift towers and walkways within the central courtyard. Final touches in the planning application include rooftop walkways, a look-out tower and additional exterior finishes, which will be completed once the Museum is open.

John Goddard, vice chair of the planning committee, said: “Oxford is world renowned for its literature and particularly for children’s literature and to have a Story Museum is exactly right for the city and a delightful addition. I look forward to seeing its interesting and fantastically exciting architecture.” The Story Museum is one of twelve museums in the UK selected to be part of the Happy Museum project. This scheme aims to put wellbeing and sustainability at the heart of its development, and has been test driving these concepts with programmers, artists, architects, visitors and staff at every stage of the design process.

Elizabeth Smith, Associate Architect Purcell said: “Creating designs for the world’s first museum of stories required the resolution of complex circulation issues around a quirky group of existing buildings in the historic heart of Oxford. We have worked with the Story Museum to design a building which will evoke narratives without fully defining them so that visitors young and old can imagine their own worlds and fairy tales. Our creative response involved collaboration with artists and designers, notably Jane Linz-Roberts, to produce a design solution which celebrates the magic and importance of stories.”