The Story Museum

The Story Museum

Oxford, UK | View Map
Année du projet
Diane Auckland / Fotohaus

The Story Museum

Purcell en tant que Architectes.

Purcell led the development of a permanent home for The Story Museum in Oxford, transforming a collection of disjointed and run-down buildings into a most unusual and unique museum full of character and whimsy. The museum, formerly a ‘virtual’ one which visited schools, now sits in the heart of a city which has inspired such storytellers from J.R.R. Tolkien to Philip Pullman, and explores stories told in every form. The reimagined museum brings famous stories to life: visitors can walk through an oak wardrobe and into Narnia, watch Pooh Sticks race down a virtual river or walk through the ‘Whispering Wood’ and attempt to pull Excalibur from a stone. Around every corner is a new world to explore.

Over numerous phases of work to realise the museum’s ambitious goals, Purcell led the redevelopment of the museum and have transformed three different and disparate buildings, including C19 Rochester House, a former telephone exchange and a postal office into one unified story emporium which it stands as today, centered around an internal courtyard.


Senior Architect at Purcell, Clare Philips explains: 
“The 19th century Rochester House and former pub has frontage on Pembroke Street at the heart of the city’s Central Conservation Area, with the other 20th century buildings tucked in behind and around a central courtyard. These were previously used as a general post office and telephone exchange and have their own unique history.”

From the beginning of the project, Purcell and the museum had ambitious plans, which included transforming the shell and core of the existing buildings into magical and mystical worlds from afar, in addition to adding new education and literacy research facilities and vibrant new hospitality spaces. Throughout the works, Purcell consolidated the buildings into one museum and introduced an external spiral staircase and lift in the courtyard and an internal circular route to connect all three buildings.

The museum is now fully up to building regulation standards and fully accessible, and the team also improved the thermal performance of the building’s fabric through adding insulation to the flat roof, lining of the internal walls and new double-glazed windows. The use of tactile and colourful materials was an important element throughout the museum and has resulted in a design that will delight and stimulate children of all ages. Many materials and architectural features were reused from the old buildings and reimagined into the modern fit-out – every design detail is bespoke. The museum is far from a ‘white cube’ space! We collaborated with a large team of consultants to bring the museum’s vision to life whilst also enhancing the buildings’ quirks and character: the buildings have their own stories to tell and it was important the final design embraced that.


Caroline Jones, Director of The Story Museum, says:
“Purcell has been helping the museum tell its story through its building since Chapter 1 of our capital redevelopment which first enabled us to open our doors to the public in 2014. This second chapter has totally transformed our site, providing a fit-for-purpose, accessible museum that still retains the distinctive sense of magic and playfulness that our visitors so love.”

Purcell’s role in the project included concept design and consultation on successful funding initiatives. Various eminent storytellers including Philip Pullman and Malorie Blackman are patrons of the museum and the £6m Chapter 2 capital project has been supported by significant grants from Arts Council England, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Wolfson Foundation, the Foyle Foundation and Nesta’s Arts Impact Fund, with ongoing support from Arts Council England as a National Portfolio Organisation.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Museum has taken a phased approach to reopening starting with their ground floor in August and a further 3 galleries from the end of October thanks to support from Arts Council England’s Emergency Response Funding and the Culture Recovery Fund. The 100 seat Woodshed theatre will be the last space to reopen once social-distancing rules make it viable. Purcell are delighted to sponsor the inaugural exhibition ‘The Making of the Story Museum’ in ‘The Treasure Chamber’ – an environmentally controlled exhibition space – exploring the story of the museum itself.

Crédits de projet
Structural engineer, Services engineer
Quantity surveyor
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Lead Exhibition Designers
Lead Exhibition Designers
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