Leighton House Museum Wins Europa Nostra Restoration Award

The restoration of Leighton House Museum wins a European Union Cultural Heritage/Europa Nostra Award 2012 as record numbers visit the Museum.

Leighton House Museum

The restoration of Leighton House Museum has been given one of the world’s most prestigious awards for conservation. Won by the project architects Purcell Miller Tritton, the award recognises the meticulous process of restoration that has returned the house to its High Victorian splendour.

Since reopening in April 2010, record numbers of visitors have come to the museum, with over 45,000 visiting in the current year making Leighton House one of London’s most visited small museums.

Built for the eminent Victorian artist Frederic Leighton, the house was one of the most remarkable of its age combining a working studio, domestic accommodation and space for entertainment. Owned and operated by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea since the 1920s, the house underwent a major programme of conservation between November 2008 and April 2010. This sensitive, painstaking restoration programme was achieved through close collaboration between Purcell Miller Tritton and museum’s curators working with a range of historic building specialists and skilled contractors.

External fabric repairs were initially carried out to conserve the museum’s external walls, roofs and joinery before reinstating the distinctive, ornamental brick “ziggurat” parapets above the Arab Hall and Silk Room. The historic ziggurats were derived from stepped pyramid profiles originally removed in 1959 and their painstaking restoration used carefully detailed handmade bricks to recreate their characteristic geometric shape and exotic appearance.

Leighton’s original decorative scheme, furnishings and historic lighting were reinstated within the museum’s historic interior, allowing his collections to be authentically displayed within environmentally controlled conditions. Newly conserved and re-presented ceramic wall tiles, mosaic flooring, re-stencilling and silk wall hangings have transformed the museum’s internal spaces in re-establishing Leighton’s carefully developed interior aesthetic and to explain how he used his studio home.

Councillor Nicholas Paget-Brown, Deputy Leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council said: “This award is wonderful recognition for the work of our architects Purcell Miller Tritton and all those who contributed to the outstanding success of the project. We are delighted that the transformation of the house has received this international acclaim and I am sure it will encourage many new visitors to discover one of London’s great small museums.”

“Our client’s desire was to bring the house back to Leighton’s architectural vision.” said Dante Vanoli, who was responsible for the project at Purcell Miller Tritton. “Through new research and paint analysis we have endeavoured to recreate the unique character of Leighton’s aesthetic and decorative schemes within his ‘Private Palace of Art’. We have revealed concealed surfaces and spaces and restored lost architectural and ornamental decorative features such as carved fire surrounds, staircases, silk hangings and the Arab Hall’s spectacular gilded dome to convey how this marvellous building would have been experienced and enjoyed in Leighton’s lifetime’.

The Award will be presented at a special ceremony in Lisbon, Portugal at the beginning of June.

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