The Project Brief



An impression of the new cafe space

The Gallery staff and Board have spent the last few months reviewing and refining the brief for the expansion. This brief sets out the Gallery’s intention for the spaces in the new building, as well as thoughts about their quality and use. This brief is essential in helping to meet our aims and objectives.

The key aims are to:

  • expand the Gallery’s audience to at least 100,000 visitors per year
  • increase the Gallery’s financial sustainability and reduce its dependence on public funding

In order to meet these aspirations, we will be  adapting existing spaces as well as constructing new ones.  These spaces will be: high quality in their design and execution; cost effective to run; energy and maintenance efficient; easy to use and fully accessible; and flexible in their layout.

In addition to the upgrade and renovation of the existing gallery spaces, the new spaces consist of the following:

  •  Additional state of the art gallery spaces to provide a total of at least 520sqm- more than double the existing provision.  All galleries will  be fully environmentally controlled, enabling the display of more vulnerable, historical loans.
  • Three cinemas with a combined capacity of around 300 seats, which will show a carefully curated selection of independent and art house films.
  • A new bar and café area – the current lack of catering facilities is the most common cause of complaint from current visitors. Situated near the entrance, the café will make the most of the Gallery’s location and will  spill out to outdoor areas.
  • An enhanced entrance and bookshop, with clear and easy signage and information on events and exhibitions.  The new shop will be bigger and better than the existing one, and will offer a wide variety of books and gifts.
  • A brand new, state of the art, education and learning suite to enable our fantastic learning programme to grow and serve more people from Milton Keynes and beyond
  • Upgraded staff, workshop and ancillary spaces to improve our ways of working and help to cut operational costs.
  • Enhanced facilities for disabled visitors to enhanve their experience and enable the development of suitable programmes and workshops.

The design team are working very hard to ensure that all of these aspirations are included within the design proposals, which are developing on a daily basis!  More on the design to come – and do join us in the Project Space on Thursday 10 April for a special viewing of the concept designs, when members of the design team will be present to discuss their ideas and receive your feedback!

An introduction to our design team

We’re delighted to be working with a fantastic team of consultants and advisers on the designs for our expansion project.  Each was selected from a shortlist of extremely high quality firms not only for their experience but also on their understanding of the particular challenges and issues this project might encounter.

Our Architects, and Design Lead are 6a Architects.  They are a young London firm who have worked on a number of very impressive projects within the arts over the last few years.  Most notably, they designed the recently refurbished Fashion Galleries at the Victoria and Albert Museum, an extension to the South London Gallery and the renovation of two 18th century silk mercer’s houses in East London to create a stunning contemporary arts space.  They have recently been nominated for The Design Museum’s “Designs of the Year” Award for their cast iron façade on the Paul Smith store in Mayfair.

Structural Engineering services are being provided by Momentum Structural Engineering.  Momentum have previously worked on extension projects for the Holburne Museum in Bath and the Jerwood in Hastings, both of which were award winning schemes.  They are currently working with the Bristol Old Vic and The National Theatre, so have a huge amount of experience within the arts sector and fully understand the needs of organisations like MK Gallery.

We are also working with Max Fordham, who will be providing Mechanical & Electrical Engineering services, as well as Sustainability, Acoustics and BREEAM advice.  Max Fordham are one of the market leading firms in innovative mechanical engineering for galleries and have previously worked on The Hive in Worcester – a public library that succeeded in achieving BREEAM “Outstanding” for its energy efficiency and sustainability performance.  Max Fordham were recently awarded Consultancy of the Year at the 2014 Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) Awards.

Cost Management and Construction Health & Safety advice will be provided by Gleeds.  Most recently Gleeds have provided cost management advice to the Zaha Hadid-designed Serpentine Sackler Gallery in Kensington as well as the exemplar new home for the University of the Arts at Kings Cross in London.

In addition, we’re also drawing on the advice of other experts across the sector to help us ensure that the future Gallery will meet the needs of the organisation and the City of Milton Keynes.  We’re working closely with Counterculture Partnership on developing our business planning and fundraising strategies and The Audience Agency on an Audience Development Plan.  We’re also really excited to have Gareth Jones on the team as a Design Adviser.  Gareth grew up in Milton Keynes and the Gallery presented his first solo public exhibition back in 2011.  He has also exhibited extensively, including at the Barbican and Tate St. Ives.

As the designs develop I’ll be posting more and more about the progress that we’re making, and will be making reference to particular team members.  Hopefully in future some of them will be making guest posts here and providing updates on specific items related to this project.



Hi, I’m Jess Thompson, Client Project Manager for MK Gallery’s Capital Expansion project.  Welcome to our new Blog, where every couple of weeks (and more frequently as the project gathers pace) I’ll bring you news, views and interesting snippets about the development of the gallery.  So whether your interest is personal or professional, do please visit for updates whenever you can.

I joined the staff team in June 2013, and as Project Lead I have a varied role that includes procuring and managing the design and construction team and ensuring that the project meets the needs of MK Gallery, as the client. We are currently in what is known as the Design Phase.  Our appointed Design team comprises 6a architects,  engineers Max Fordham and Momentum, and Gleeds Health & Safety Limited, our quantity surveyors and H&S advisors.  We meet twice a month to progress design options for the site.  These meetings are updated and informed by specialist investigations of the current building and its surrounding site, consultations with staff, funders and a wide range of potential users of the new building.

We are working towards achieving RIBA Stage D and submission of our planning application this summer.  The outcome of the planning application is expected by autumn this year, and all being well we envisage starting  construction in summer 2015 and opening the new, expanded gallery in spring/summer 2017, to coincide with Milton Keynes’ 50th anniversary year.

Last week architect Tom Emerson from 6a, and Gallery Director Anthony Spira,  presented an update on the Project plans so far, to a mixed audience of stakeholders and interested parties.   Public feedback included  the comment that the design approach was “stimulating and inspiring”, and that the architect’s “sensibility and appreciation of what makes MK so special” worked particularly well.  This is enormously pleasing to hear, as we are determined to deliver a project of international standing, with a sensitivity to place, that Milton Keynes can be proud of.

Looking ahead, everyone is invited to view the proposed designs for the new gallery in our Project Space this April, and there will be opportunities to meet staff and members of the 6a architects and offer your feedback.  More on this in my next post!