National Museum of Rural Life

A twist on vernacular forms to house our national agricultural collection

Kittochside, the National Museum of Rural Life, acts as a threshold into the historic agricultural landscape of Scotland. A time-capsule farm gifted to the National Trust was the catalyst to bring the national museum to this site on the edge of East Kilbride.

Constructed in a utilitarian style suited to the farming implements it holds, the building embraces the idea of an accessible museum store. A simple barn module is arranged in a rectilinear spiral that creates a rich route for the visitor to follow, framing a ramped descent between the closed but visible collection in storage, interpretive displays, and the oldest fixed mill in existence.

A robust pre-cast concrete frame and exposed brickwork set the tone for the museum displays and contribute to the passive control of the museum environment.


The competition for the new museum identified a site on the field sloping down from the historic farm of Wester Kittochside. The critical move was to place the new building on the wedge of land left over when the dual carriageway was built, leaving the historic field pattern intact. This anchored the new building as a gateway between the new town of East Kilbride and the historic farm landscape, taking the visitor on a journey back to a pre-industrialised landscape of rigs and hedgerows.

Accessibility for all was a driving force in the building design. By exploiting the topography of the site, the visitor enters at the upper level of the building and follows a descending ramped route between the barn galleries. The approach to construction was inspired by the practical beauty of the collection, a robust palette of brick, concrete and timber echoes that found in a typical farm steading, which becomes the backdrop to the exhibition design.


The exhibition design was a joint effort between Page\Park and NMS. The overarching themes of Land, Tools and People provided a framework to guide the design approach to each gallery. An abstract wedge clad in earthy, rusted steel provides the back drop to the land gallery, bespoke mobile trucks hold the tools in the central gallery, while a more domestic scaled space finished in raw plaster provides a home for the costumes and artefacts of the people gallery.

Project Info

National Museums Scotland
Wester Kittochside, East Kilbride
Internal Floor Area
January 2001
Scottish Design Awards 2002 - Best Public Building and Architectural Grand Prix 

Dynamic Place Awards 2001 - Highly Commended 

Glasgow Institute of Architects Design Award 2001 

Structural Engineer
Will Rudd Associates
M&E Engineer
Harley Haddow LLP
Landscape Architect
Ian White Associates
Cost Consultant
Thomas & Adamson