Exterior image of the museum along the Royal Albert Dock

Adjaye Associates to redevelop International Slavery Museum and Maritime Museum

British studio Adjaye Associates has been appointed to create the architectural design for the redevelopment of Liverpool's International Slavery Museum and Maritime Museum, with Ralph Appelbaum Associates chosen to lead the exhibition design.

The £57 million revamp will turn the museum's existing Dr Martin Luther King Jr building into a new entrance to the International Slavery Museum (ISM), and will also feature added retail, cafeteria, events spaces and temporary exhibition areas.

Image of the International Slavery Museum and Maritime Museum along the waterfront
Adjaye Associates will redevelop the 19th-century buildings

"This project presents us with an opportunity to reimagine the historic fabric of this Grade I Listed Building and to reposition it within the powerful context of Liverpool's Waterfront and its relationship to the transatlantic slave trade," said David Adjaye, founder of Adjaye Associates.

"We eagerly anticipate collaborating with National Museums Liverpool, the wider project team and the local community in an inclusive co-production process that places the descendants of people impacted by Liverpool's maritime history at the heart of the conversation and emerging museum experience."

Image of the front of the International Slavery Museum and Maritime Museum
Exhibition design will be created by Ralph Appelbaum Associates

Located in Liverpool at the Royal Albert Dock, the Maritime Museum focuses on the city's maritime history. It sits within a 19th-century warehouse designed by Jesse Hartley that was formerly used to house tea, silk sugar and spirits.

The International Slavery Museum is currently located on the third floor of the Maritime Museum and is dedicated to the history of enslaved people, the transatlantic slave trade and contemporary slavery.

The ISM will be expanded into the nearby Dr Martin Luther King Jr Building, a Grade I listed structure that was built in 1846. This will be transformed to become a focal entrance for the museum to create better visitor orientation upon arrival, as well as dedicated welcome areas.

The Maritime Museum's Hartley Pavilion will be refurbished to include a number of commercial and visitor facilities such as retail spaces, a cafeteria, a temporary exhibition space and event spaces while also improving the building's circulation.

Image of the front of the Dr Martin Luther King Jr Building
A new entrance will be made to the International Slavery Museum

"There has never been a more important time to address the legacies of the transatlantic slave trade and the redevelopment of the International Slavery Museum symbolises our, and our region's commitment to confronting the significant role the city played in British imperialism," said the director of National Museums Liverpool Laura Pye.

"Together, we will honour Liverpool’s Waterfront as a sacred ground – a place that reverberates with the sights, sounds and souls of all those connected to its global history," said design studio Ralph Applebaum Associates director Phillip Tefft.

Under the redevelopment of the museum, Adjaye Associates and Ralph Appelbaum Associates will link the museum's interior scheme with the historic exterior.

The appointment of Adjaye Associates to redevelop the International Slavery Museum and Maritime Museum follows the selection of Adjaye, together with architects Asif Khan and Mariam Kamara and artist Theaster Gates, for the Waterfront Transformation project – a scheme that aims to regenerate the waterfront cultural site as part of the National Museums Liverpool's 10-year transformation plan.

In 2021, UNESCO stripped Liverpool of its World Heritage status after a UN committee stated developments, including the Liverpool Waters project, caused an "irreversible loss of attributes".

The photography is by Pete Carr.