RENOWNED designer Wayne Hemingway has called Portsmouth Guildhall a ‘sleeping giant’ in a city that ‘punches below its weight’ culturally.
He was speaking at the Guildhall as it was announced that his company HemingwayDesign will be the creative force behind the £15m Guildhall Renaissance project.
As previously announced, the scheme will see the Guildhall given a radical overhaul over a decade, aiming to improve every aspect of the 125-year-old building.
HemingwayDesign was unveiled as the project’s ‘Design Champion’ by Portsmouth Cultural Trust, which runs the building.
Mr Hemingway said: ‘This is a sleeping giant, but it has got lots of potential in a city that punches under its weight.
‘What you will get from us is honesty and critical opinions – we won’t say it’s brilliant unless it really is.’
I live near Chichester, and like all of us around there we look east to Brighton, and that’s crazy when Portsmouth is right on our doorstepDesigner Wayne Hemingway
He went on to explain how Portsmouth should be a regional cultural hub, with the Guildhall at its heart – which is what they aim to create. But at the moment even those living nearby currently look elsewhere.
He added: ‘I live near Chichester, and like all of us around there we look east to Brighton, and that’s crazy when Portsmouth is right on our doorstep.
‘It could be absolutely brilliant, but it needs lots doing to it, but the team here have got ambition and we hope that the rest of Portsmouth will find that ambition too.
‘This isn’t about some good architects and visionary designers coming along on our white steeds to rescue Portsmouth Guildhall. It’s about massive teams of people working together to make this a beating cultural heart of Portsmouth and a national beacon.
‘And we will do that kicking and screaming if we have to.
‘It’s got to be culturally amazing.
‘It will be about the brand, the ambience, the marketing, the soul of the place – and we will take risks. We will push for bravery.’
Speaking after Mr Hemingway, Mark Smith, the PCT chairman said: ‘We are hearing lots of words like “bold” and “ambitious” and that is why I joined this board in the first place. The city has shown great ambition in what it wants for this city.
Councillor Linda Symes, cabinet member for culture leisure and sport, and who also recently became a member of the PCT, called it an ‘iconic building’ and added that it needed to grow in terms of ‘quality and diversity,’ as well as improving the ‘customer experience’.