Great Tapestry of Scotland Gallery
Scottish Borders Council / Live Borders
14-20 High Street, Galashiels
Internal Floor Area
A special room to reconnect a nation
‘Page\Park have answered our vision with a truly brilliant and innovative building. The uncluttered, harmonious and beautifully formed space where the panels hang has added immeasurably to their impact and the entire building offers the impression of elegance, simplicity and practicality. It is a magnificent example of contemporary architecture.’ Alistair Moffat, Tapestry Trustee, Writer & Historian
The Great Tapestry of Scotland Gallery is in Galashiels at the heart of the Scottish Borders. The building was designed to house the Great Tapestry of Scotland; a unique visual history of the nation crafted by the hands of a thousand stitchers.
The Great Tapestry of Scotland was designed by Andrew Crummy to a narration written by Alistair Moffat, with the grand vision imagined by Alexander McCall Smith. The tapestry, at almost 143 metres (469 ft) in length, is a linear pictorial history of Scotland depicting key events going back 12,000 years. It was meticulously embroidered in communities across Scotland led by master stitcher Dorie Wilkie.
The gallery acts as an anchor for town centre regeneration. Supported by the new Borders Railway line linking Galashiels to Edinburgh, the gallery will bring new activity to the high street supporting the existing retail offer and inspiring a 21st century version of this textile town.
Our architectural vision was to create a distinctive building rooted in its physical and historical context, with a special room for the tapestry at its heart. The dramatic geometric roof design is inspired by the unique roofscape of towers, dormers, gables and pitched roofs that defines the architectural character of Galashiels. As you approach Galashiels the roofs of the town unfold before you. The new gallery inserts into this roofscape as a contemporary and playful re-imagining of the traditional Victorian pitched roof.
The scale and massing of the visitor centre was designed in response to the surrounding Victorian townscape. Due to concerns regarding UV light and conservation of the tapestry, it was not possible to have a lot of windows into the gallery. To break down the mass of the building to a scale more appropriate to its neighbours we folded the external walls creating subtle undulating bays. These bays relate to the rhythm of the windows, doorways, and corner turrets of Channel St.
The ground floor houses a temporary gallery space, reception, shop, café, and education space.
The gallery is connected by a glazed link to the old Post Office building. The Post Office opened to great fanfare in 1896 and was a symbol of Galashiels’ prosperity as a booming textile town of the nineteenth century. The subtle articulation and detailing of the stonework elevations to the Post Office inspired the stepping stone façade of the visitor centre. Vertical and horizontal bands of stonework envelope the building, like the warp and weft of a textile.
The gallery is located on a brownfield town centre site and incorporates an existing listed building. The Post Office was re-used with minimal modification reducing the embodied energy of the development. The Post Office was unoccupied for several years, so the project brings this significant heritage asset back into community use providing a sustainable future.
The building fabric is highly efficient with low u-values achieved through good insulation and airtightness detailing. Glazing was kept to a minimum and where windows were required, solar control glass blocks out a large extent of unwanted solar gain trimming the loads on cooling plant. A high efficiency, Passive House certified air handling unit produces the fresh air for free cooling and provides heat recovery, recovering 87% of expelled heat.
The gallery is well served by sustainable transport with the train and bus station a five-minute walk from the site and bike parking available on Channel Street.
The galleries and education space provide leisure activities supporting good health and wellbeing. In particular, the Maker’s Space is a dedicated space for local stitching groups to meet. The building is designed to be fully accessible including upgrading the Category B listed Post Office.
The tapestry gallery is on the first floor; a dramatic room formed from folding walls and ceiling. The gallery is precisely shaped to house the tapestry which is 143 metres (469 ft) in length. The artwork wraps around a series of radial display walls to form a continuous linear display. At the four corners of the gallery are tall windows, each looking to one of the four hills that surround Galashiels.
The palette of colour and texture in the interior design reflects the nuance and detail of the tapestry, as well as the rich landscape of the Borders. The walls of the gallery are clad with fabric woven on the Isle of Bute and finished locally in Galashiels. The bespoke colour was designed for this project, inspired by the ever-changing colours of the hills surrounding Galashiels.
Bute Fabric – We worked with Bute Fabrics to develop a bespoke textile for the wall panelling in the tapestry gallery. We needed a fabric with specific acoustic properties as the wall panels act as acoustic absorption. However, we wanted to make a textile for this tapestry gallery, in a town historically associated with textile production, that was unique. We selected colours that relate to the changing colours of the hills surrounding Galashiels as well as the colours used in the tapestry itself. The resultant fabric is a combination of green, grey and gold which shimmers when it catches the light. The fabric was woven in Rothesay and finished in Galashiels.
Staircase Artwork – The artwork was designed by Andrew Crummy and made by the craftspeople of Glasgow based Sculpture & Design, lead by Graeme Raeburn.
The inspiration was to celebrate the stitchers of the tapestry. As you walk up the staircase there is a cascade of colour. These colourful threads of the relief sculpture are made from acrylic and are laser cut with over one thousand names of the stitchers, The welcoming woman, who is made and crafted out of brass, is at the top of the staircase. She gathers the threads together in her needle which is pointing to the tapestry and gallery. The thread also leads down the stair and onto the entrance glazing, with the grand vision that a thread starts at the train station and leads you to the front door.
Our signage commission for the Great Tapestry of Scotland was focused on providing wayfinding signage, room identification and a free standing totem for visitors to use as an orientation device. Having been involved in all facets of the project we were able to start the concept design at a much more advanced stage and tone in the signage with the colour pallete already embedded in the project. We worked collaboratively with Norign to design, manufacture and install the signage.
“It is rare that one work of art gives birth to another. But this is precisely what has happened with the Great Tapestry of Scotland Gallery in Galashiels. When Andrew Crummy and I conceived the narrative and form of the tapestry we wanted to tell an epic story with clarity, passion and skill. Page\Park have answered our vision with a truly brilliant and innovative building. The uncluttered, harmonious and beautifully formed space where the panels hang has added immeasurably to their impact and entire building offers the impression of elegance, simplicity and practicality. It is a magnificent example of contemporary architecture.”
Alistair Moffat Tapestry Trustee, Writer & Historian
“As a community artist it is an honour to have my drawings, design and sculpture in this inspired building. The main tapestry room is a vast and epic ceiling folding like a book, revealing the stories of Scotland. The star shape of the exhibition layout points to the centre of the room, which is highlighted by a single beam of natural light from the cupola in the ceiling. Creating a meeting point where people can gather and tell stories of Scotland. The gold finishes in the tapestry room links to the golden embroidery women at the top of the staircase, her multi coloured threads flow all the way down, revealing all the names of the stitchers for the Tapestry and out the building inviting and welcoming visitors. In the true spirit of community arts, it is a warm and welcoming building that celebrates. A poetic, inspired and elegant building.”
Andrew Crummy Tapestry Trustee, Artist