Plans are moving forward for the transformation of the tourist information building into a Victor Hugo Centre with the famed writer's descendants said to be impressed with the multi-million pound plans.
A fly-through of the vision was premiered at yesterday's Institute of Directors Guernsey breakfast, with ambitious plans revealed to assist the rejuvenation of the North Plantation through a new light-up, wave-like façade on the west side of the building.
The project proposes converting the building into a dedicated museum with seven distinct galleries, an events and performance space, and a learning hub over three floors. A new lift would be installed to make the Centre fully accessible.
The building would be extended westwards to accommodate the new gallery areas and be clad in the illuminated façade, which could also display animations (pictured below).
Larry Malcic, Chair of the Victor Hugo Centre Guernsey LBG, yesterday confirmed the organisation has secured a letter of exclusivity from the States for use of the tourist information building, on the condition that funds can be raised privately for its conversion and subsequent operation, up to September 2024.
Around £7m is estimated to be required and must come from private benefactors and/or public donations. Mr Malcic said a broader fundraising campaign will launch soon with a 24-month maximum timeframe set for raising the necessary funds.
Mr Malcic said museums “don’t come cheap”, particularly when they are designed to be “world class” and to “draw international visitors”.
Pictured: The design of the North Plantation facing side of the Centre. Credit: DLM Architects. Credit: DLM Architect.
Casson Mann, internationally recognised exhibition designers, are working with DLM Architects to bring the building into a full and proper use.
Mr Malcic said the firm has already visited the island and expressed excitement at the “wonderful opportunity” to convey an authentic story through the exhibits.
Mr Malcic said the Centre could have a "global impact partly because of who Victor Hugo was”.
Part of his legacy is his social advocacy which remains highly relevant in the world today such as women being denied education in Afghanistan and a lack of press freedom in Russia, Mr Malcic said.
Investing in the centre would therefore “underline our commitment as a society” to the principles of freedom and democracy.
Hugo’s descendants have reacted warmly to the plans, according to Mr Malcic, with his great great grandson, Jean Baptiste, saying a true understanding of the man can only be realised by visiting the island.
Mr Malcic added that the North Plantation has “long been a neglected part of Guernsey” and they hope the Centre will be “a catalyst to change that”. But he said while they attempt to do their part, the government must do its part too.
Watch: The fly-through video of the Centre. Credit: DLM Architects and Casson Mann.
Mr Malcic ended his presentation with a plea to industry to help bring the project to life. If realised, the project would deliver the only English language focal point for Hugo in the world.
“I’m now asking you to get involved to help make this dream come true,” he told delegates at yesterday's IoD briefing. “You can tell people the story, the importance of the project and its validity... help us not only with words, but with finances”.
He said a key aim is to ensure the Centre is “self-sustaining” through ticket sales, events, and corporate packages.
Mr Malcic said conversations with Guernsey Finance, which markets the industry internationally, had revealed a desire for a talking point beyond being “an attractive tax location”.
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