The Novium Museum, Chichester opened to the public 8 July 2012. It was the culmination of a 10 year endeavour by the Council to replace the city’s former museum with a new building that would more effectively display the breadth of its collection. The new museum, designed by Keith Williams Architects, after winning the 2007 RIBA design competition, is located in Tower Street in line sight of the city’s cathedral, in the city’s historic core. At 1,100 m2, the Novium is 21/2 times larger than its predecessor, a small cellular 18th Century building located elsewhere in the city which had functioned for many years as the city’s museum.
The Novium occurs at precisely the point that historic buildings stop and the grain of the city changes fundamentally. The contemporary architectural expression of the museum responds to that contextual shift in both its materiality of pale cast stone surfaces which echo the colour hues of the city’s primary buildings the cathedral, market cross and cathedral tower, and the formal composition which establishes a clearly contemporary architectural outcome.
The unique aspect of the plot, a former car park on which the museum is sited, centres on substantial archaeological remains of a series of Roman baths, which were discovered in the 1970’s beneath the ground surfaces. The baths, part of Roman Chichester (Noviomagnus Reginorum) date from the Flavian period (1st Century AD) and the fragments of the hypocaust are the most substantial Roman extant remains within the city walls. The new museum spans the hypocaust, which have been incorporated in situ into the main entrance gallery as a permanent exhibit and an intrinsic part of the museum.
The museum contains galleries over a further two floors, which have been designed to be flexible allowing both permanent and temporary exhibition, and education spaces, restoration, research and staff areas.
The museum has over 1,000 geological specimens (primarily fossils), 8,500 social history artefacts and items of ephemera, 3,600+ photographs and in excess of 300,000 archaeological finds, describing the story of Chichester District from geological times onwards. Elements of these are displayed in the galleries changing museological programme.
The Novium Museum is the first part of a phased plan for this part of the city, which includes a residential scheme masterplanned by Keith Williams to complete the urban block, and became a Nationally Accredited Museum in 2014.
Client : Chichester District Council
Area = 1100m2
Budget : £7.2 million