Urbis architect 'doubts city will engage museum'

The boss of the firm which designed Preston's National Football Museum has said he would "lament" its move to Urbis.

Writing in The Architects' Journal, Phil O'Dwyer, director of Manchester-based OMI Architects, said: "I'm caught in two minds about the possible move to Urbis.

"I can think of a lot of good reasons for it to stay where it is, in the kind of proud Lancashire town where football has its roots.

"Places like Preston should not be starved of major attractions like the Football Museum and the gravitational pull towards London and a few other British cities should sometimes be questioned.

"The placing of the permanent exhibition in the bowels of a traditional football stadium resonates strongly with its subject matter.

"The original exhibition design by Land and The Chase is a piece of rare quality that sets a very high benchmark for anything that might follow.

"A series of subtle football references are also embedded within the new building elements and the place as a whole is playful, brash and a bit over the top – which somehow seems to capture the spirit of the game and the experience of going to a match.

"Overall, I would therefore lament its uprooting.

"But on the other hand, I'm a born-and-bred Manc and to have the museum round the corner is a tempting proposition and it would certainly benefit from being right in among the life of the city centre.

"I suspect (Urbis) is flexible enough to absorb the Football Museum, like it could absorb many other exhibitions with varying degrees of success. But would it engage with this subject to the same extent?

"Would it have the ingredients that make the difference between a place that has spirit and one that feels soulless and detached from the people that use it? I have my doubts, but that would be the challenge."

OMI won the competition to design the museum in 1997.