In August 2012, archaeologists from the University of Leicester began excavating in the car park of Leicester City Council’s Social Services department. On the first day, in the first trench, a skeleton began to emerge from over 500 years of undisturbed seclusion. Unbelievably, the body of one of the most infamous kings in history, Richard III, had just been found.
BECK have had the great honour of helping to bring the excitement of that discovery to vivid life in a new visitor centre which incorporates the King’s grave. Through an exhibition entitled ‘Dynasty, Death and Discovery’ visitors can explore the fascinating story of the King’s life and death and discover for themselves the extraordinary success of the project launched to find him.
This state-of-the-art visitor centre occupies the recently transformed former Alderman Newton’s School, a stunning Victorian Gothic revival building built partly on the site of the former Church of the Grey Friars in the heart of Leicester’s Old Town. A new extension to the historic building houses the burial site and a glass-floored viewing gallery allows visitors to see the excavated grave.
BECK were appointed as specialist fit-out principal contractor and were responsible for all the exhibition spaces over six galleries. Our scope of works included setworks, display cases, props and models, scenic reconstruction, interactive exhibits, graphics and specialist lighting. BECK also fully co-ordinated client-procured audio-visual hardware and software.
The key challenge of the project was the incredibly tight project programme (five months from appointment to completion). We were asked to run our programme concurrently with the base-build contractors, and we achieved a safe merging of the two programmes through careful management, using a series of partial possessions and handovers.
The Visitor Centre opened its doors to the public on 26 July 2014, to a fanfare of positive reviews, with projected annual visitors in excess of 200,000. It is already firmly established as one of the UK’s must-see heritage sites and will be the renewed focus of world attention in March 2015, when the remains of King Richard III are reinterred in Leicester Cathedral, opposite the site.