The Novium, Chichesterʼs new museum which opened to the public 8 July 2012, is the culmination of a 10 year endeavour by the Council, to replace the cityʼs former museum, with a new building that would more effectively display the breadth of its collection. Designed by keith williams architects after winning the 2007 RIBA design competition, the Novium, located in Tower Street in line sight of the cityʼs cathedral. At 1,100 m2 is 21/2 times larger than its predecessor at Little London; a small
museum housed within a cellular 18th Century building elsewhere in the city.
The unique aspect of the plot, a former car park, centred on substantial archaeological remains of a series of Roman baths, which were discovered in the 1970s 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 a 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 a changing museological programme.
The Novium occurs at precisely the point in the cityʼs north west quarter where the historic buildings begin to stop and the grain of the city changes fundamentally. The 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 cityʼs primary buildings the cathedral, market cross and cathedral tower, and the formal composition which establishes a clearly contemporary architectural outcome.
The building is the first part of a phased plan for this part of the city, which includes a residential scheme also designed by Keith Williams to complete the urban block.
Materials and method of construction
The building is primarily clad in pale re-cast stone panels echoing the tonality of the cathedral and important civic buildings, whilst zinc roofing echoes contextually, one of the cityʼs historic roofing materials.
The building comprises 2,000 tonnes of reinforced concrete structure, envelope and finishes suspended over the archaeological remains of the ancient Roman baths. The footprint of the foundations was reduced to less than 3% of the overall plan and carefully threaded between the Roman archaeology onto high capacity bored piles.
Exposed internal surfaces were treated to a soft sand-blasting of limestone grit to expose mica and quartz components of the granite. Very deep pours of concrete meant that the formwork had to be specially detailed and strengthened to prevent any grout loss or segregation from compromising texture or colour. Formwork joints were carefully coordinated with the Architects patterning of volumes and surfaces.
RIBA Competition Nov 2006 – March 2007
Design + Approvals April 2007 – March 2010
Construction – April 2010 – September 2011
Exhibition + Fit Out January – June 2012
Public Opening – July 2012
The project was delivered to the approved construction budget at £4.035 million
2013 Civic Trust Award : Michael Middleton Special Award for Best Building in a Conservation Area
2013 Civic Trust Award
2013 RICS Regional Award