New firm to lead architectural design of £58m transformation of Liverpool museums

Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios (FCBStudios) appointed to progress redevelopment of the International Slavery Museum and Maritime Museum

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The world-renowned design firm will develop the proposals for the Dr Martin Luther King Jr building and the Hartley Pavilion, building on the momentum already generated on this important strand of the Waterfront Transformation Project.

The redevelopment will see the Dr Martin Luther King Jr Building become a prominent new entrance to the International Slavery Museum, creating not only improved visitor orientation and an inspiring welcome, but also a stronger sense of purpose and identity for the museum. The building will be multi-functional, serving as a space for community collaboration, events, and learning and participation activity too. The Hartley Pavilion will benefit from improved circulation for visitors with enhanced commercial facilities, including a shop, café, events spaces and a dynamic temporary exhibition space.  

The transformed International Slavery Museum and Maritime Museum will centre people – past, present and future, local, national and international – to create dynamic, welcoming spaces that meaningfully address contemporary issues. The national collections of both museums will be elevated through this new redevelopment. 

Those whose lives have been most affected by the histories being told will play an integral role in the development of both museums. 

Ralph Appelbaum Associates, who were appointed in 2022, continue to lead on the exhibition design for both museums.

Laura Pye, Director of National Museums Liverpool, said:

To be bringing two such visionary designers with international reputations to the project represents the bold ambition and thinking behind it. We are delighted they’re keen to embrace this as a co-production project which we feel will create something truly ground-breaking. 

There has never been a more important time to address the legacies of the transatlantic slavery and the redevelopment of the International Slavery Museum symbolises our, and our region’s, commitment to confronting the significant role the city played in British imperialism.

Alongside the revitalisation of the Maritime Museum and the wider Canning Dock development, which will bring a renewed focus on Liverpool’s rich maritime history and communities, the project will create a holistic exploration of the heritage of the Liverpool waterfront, as well as a world-class visitor experience.

The FCBStudios team will be led by partner, Kossy Nnachetta, who has been with the practice for 10 years, supported by Geoff Rich and Peter Clegg. Kossy is passionate about community design and has delivered several schools and community projects.

Kossy said:

FCBS are excited and humbled by the invitation to join the NML team and to lead the architectural transformation of these museums. We understand that there is huge responsibility to help create a platform to tell this story, long whispered, yet still awaiting the space to fully express itself; and all the potent, deep-seated emotions it can elicit. We hope to help create something bold and yet beautiful. The result of ‘many hands’ working together with the museums and communities in Liverpool.

FCBStudios will also be working with key members of the University of Liverpool School of Architecture in facilitating the co-production of the designs. The team will include Head of School, Professor Ola Uduku, the school's most recent professorial appointment, Professor Ilze Wolff, who is also a distinguished South African architect and founding partner of Wolff Architects, as well as EDI specialist, architectural designer, and PhD candidate Kudzai Matsvai. All three women have engaged in research and creative practices around the issues of gender, race, slavery, colonialism and imperialism and seek ways to transform society to be more equal, anti-racist and free.   

FCBStudios has worked with National Museums Liverpool previously, completing the original masterplan for its waterfront sites in 2019 and supporting the International Slavery Museum and Maritime Museum Project’s bid to the National Heritage Lottery Fund Heritage Horizon Awards programme in 2020. 

Colleagues at National Museums Liverpool were joined by community stakeholders for the selection and appointment of FCBStudios, including the co-chair of its RESPECT Group

This project is made possible with generous support of £9.9million from The National Lottery Heritage Fund with thanks to National Lottery players. 

Notes to Editors

Waterfront Transformation Project  

Spanning the area between the Royal Albert Dock and Mann Island, the Waterfront Transformation Project will take in key landmarks such as the International Slavery Museum (ISM) and Maritime Museum (MM), alongside the exciting redevelopment of the Canning Dry Docks & Quaysides. The project will also see multiple smaller buildings repurposed, including the Cooperage, Mermaid House, Pilotage building, Piermaster's House and Great Western Railway Building. Central to the transformation will be NML’s long-held ambition to redevelop the Dr Martin Luther King Jr Building (MLK), expanding International Slavery Museum into the space.  

The National Lottery Heritage Fund awarded ISM £9.9m through its Heritage Horizon awards to help realise these ambitions which will also extend into the Maritime Museum. Additionally, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority gave £185,000 of pre-development funding as part of their work to tackle racial divides in the city and this has also helped take forward the first step of the Waterfront Transformation Project.  

International Slavery Museum 

The International Slavery Museum opened in August 2007. It is currently situated on the third floor of the Maritime Museum at the Royal Albert Dock. However, as part of the Waterfront Transformation Project, there are plans for a new front door at the Dr Martin Luther King Jr Building, which will lead to spaces to explore and investigate the transatlantic slave trade, its legacies, and other forms of slavery and human rights issues. The National Lottery Heritage Fund awarded ISM £9.9m through its Heritage Horizon awards to help realise these ambitions which will also extend into the Maritime Museum.  

International Slavery Museum is the only national museum in the world to cover the transatlantic slave trade and its legacies as well as contemporary forms of slavery. It is also an international hub for resources on human rights issues and campaigning.  

Maritime Museum 

Maritime Museum was the first public building to open at Royal Albert Dock Liverpool more than 30 years ago in 1986, heralding the renaissance of Liverpool’s iconic waterfront. Once a warehouse for high value goods like tea, silk, sugar and spirits, the museum now explores Liverpool’s maritime stories, and the lives of its seafarers and maritime communities through its large and varied collection. The Archives Centre at the museum also houses an extensive collection of maritime and slavery books and documents spanning three centuries. Two major exhibitions tell the stories and history behind the tragic sinkings of Lusitania and Titanic, and their links to Liverpool. Visitors can also learn what it’s like to be a customs officer and captain a high-speed cutter to stop smugglers in the hands-on gallery Seized! the Border and Customs uncovered. 

As part of National Museums Liverpool’s 10-year Waterfront Transformation Project, gallery spaces and narratives around Liverpool’s maritime history will be developed and evolved to support and complement International Slavery Museum, along with a new special exhibition space, community spaces and shared facilities that will create a seamless visitor experience between both museums. 

National Museums Liverpool 

National Museums Liverpool (NML) comprises seven venues, including some of the most visited museums in England outside of London. Our collections are among the most important and varied in Europe and contain everything from Impressionist paintings and rare beetles to a lifejacket from the Titanic. We attracted more than 2.5 million visitors in 2023. 
Our venues are Museum of Liverpool, World Museum, Walker Art Gallery, Maritime Museum, International Slavery Museum, Sudley House and Lady Lever Art Gallery. National Museums Liverpool is regulated by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).  

Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios (FCBStudios) 

FCBStudios was founded to move architecture forward. That’s why, for over 40 years, we’ve been pushing boundaries in sustainable, democratic, and socially responsible design.  

Over the years, our pioneering work has been continually recognised by industry awards, including the prestigious RIBA Stirling Prize for Accordia housing in Cambridge. This reinforces our belief that sustainable spaces of the future will have both beauty and practicality at their heart.  

By grounding everything we do in research and constantly seeking out fresh perspectives, we balance beauty and functionality in every space we create. We understand the challenges our clients face and offer practical, commercially viable solutions that work, both today and long into the future. The world doesn't stop changing, so neither do we. We have a history of creating new benchmarks for sustainable and socially responsible design. We solve real world problems.  

We are FCBStudios and this is Architecture for a Changing World. 

Liverpool School of Architecture
Established in 1894, the Liverpool School of Architecture is the first in the UK to have been awarded a RIBA accredited degree in Architecture. With nearly 22,000 students, the School offers more than 400 programmes including fully accredited programmes in Architecture at BA & MArch level and MA level degrees which range from established degrees leading to work in the professions, to ground breaking programmes in emerging fields of study. As one of the UK's premier centres for architectural research and education, many leading architectural experts are based within the School which hosts students from over 100 countries around the globe. The Liverpool School of Architecture is part of the University of Liverpool, a member of the prestigious Russell Group of the UK’s leading research universities which has a global reach and influence that reflects the University’s academic heritage as one of the country’s largest civic institutions.

Ralph Appelbaum Associates (RAA) 
Ralph Appelbaum Associates (RAA) is an award-winning multidisciplinary design firm that conceives, designs and produces museums, exhibitions and educational environments worldwide. Founded in 1978, RAA has expanded to become a global group with studios in New York, London, Berlin and Beijing. RAA actively supports cultural institutions that embrace and promote justice, equality, diversity, accessibility and inclusivity. With over 850 commissions in the portfolio, the practice has delivered multiple internationally renowned projects including the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.; the Second World War Galleries at Imperial War Museum London; and Holocaust museums and memorials in the US and internationally. 

The National Lottery Heritage Fund 

Using money raised by the National Lottery, we Inspire, lead and resource the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future.  

Follow @HeritageFundUK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLotteryHeritageFund   

Since The National Lottery began in 1994, National Lottery players have raised over £43 billion for projects and more than 635,000 grants have been awarded across the UK. More than £30 million raised each week goes to good causes across the UK.