DESIGNED in 1971, open in 1983, The Burrell put Glasgow on the map. It was beautiful, modern, full of light, air, space – and art. While the art was remarkable and the architecture exceptional, its political significance cannot be overstated, leading to the city's cultural renaissance. Without the Burrell, no European City of Culture 1990, Commonwealth Games or recent European Commission “UK’s top cultural and creative city."

The Burrell exerted a magic of its own. For almost 40 years it captivated all who visited. On March 29, a new-look, revamped, restored, renovated, rehabbed, refurbished Burrell opens to the public. So after six years and £68m, what is it like? Is the magic atmosphere still there?

On the day of the Queen's opening, I reported enthusiastically for the BBC on its unique qualities, the historic gothic archways incorporated into vistas of fabulous medieval stained glass, world class Chinese ceramics, bronzes and jade, famous tapestries, gorgeous French Impressionist paintings.

I loved it. So did millions of others. It was quickly embraced as a popular place for families, and also by art historians researching some of its 9000 items gathered by Glasgow shipping magnate William Burrell and given to the city 78 years ago, “one of the greatest gifts ever made to any city in the world.”

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But it leaked. Buckets were a common sight. Visitor figures fell. Repairs were needed. Yet things went further. Almost too far. It was 'not fit for purpose’ they threatened. The building was no longer able to provide a suitable home for the works of art or provide the experience visitors should expect, but a new building would have cost significantly more than the cost of refurbishment: the projected cost for an equivalent sized new build is £100 million+VAT. What! Pull the Burrell down?

In the event it was decided that this famous world collection merely needed to be revitalised, reimagined, made more "accessible", visitor friendly, people focused, geared to younger audiences with multi-media interpretation and customary technology.

So, new wonders of digital offerings include 19 large scale video walls, 13 hybrid and 12 manual interactives, 8 digital 2m high screens with films, 12 digital labels, 28 new documentary films.

Surveys found local people felt excluded, got lost inside, need a better flow. It’s hoped structural alterations plus technology attract the crowds, like the millions who flocked in the 1980s and 90s. I remember when many took their children, weekly. Post lockdowns, a 'theme playscape for early years’ will occupy kids. Will these ploys succeed? I trust so.

HeraldScotland: Camley's take on the reopeningCamley's take on the reopening

It's impossible to comment on art displays as currently there are so few exhibits installed. My focus is on the architecture. Happily, the glass-walled galleries remain as wonderful as ever, grand and intimate, romantic and elegant. Snug beside woodland, filled with world famous sculptures, you can enjoy nature and art, glimpse bluebells bloom. A joy.

Like many I worry at the loss of the old entrance with its fabulous door, claimed to be too ecclesiastic and off putting, now replaced by the mundane. The new entrance, reminiscent of 'a dull secondary school, shopping mall or municipal tax building' in one critic's view, has sadly displaced much stained glass. However I’m recently assured that visitors can enter via the original entrance if they chose, leaving the new one as an easy option for others.

There’s no such simple answer to the new core access Hub, a huge radical, unnecessary architectural intervention of stepped seating at the heart of the building which swallows space and delves deep into the basement to one of three cafes. Three Hutton Castle rooms, specified in Burrell’s bequest, are reduced to one, making way for entrance and shop, while some archways are moved, with one left standing, sentinel alone, making no sense at all.

HeraldScotland: The new HubThe new Hub

Architect John McAslan emphasises he's increased gallery space by 35%, achieved in part by sensibly removing offices from the mezzanine floor. The increased space should put more of this unique collection on view, but with such a large area taken up by the sure to become infamous Hub, one wonders.

The Burrell – pretty perfect – so why mess with it? – has long attracted controversy. In the 1970s a funding shortfall led to dramatic 10-year delay. There followed a long, failed, battle to stop the overturning of Burrell's will which banned loans. If folk wanted to see his amazing collection, a lifetime's passion, they must come to Glasgow – and in the first decades they did.

I feel sure they will return. The exterior looks stunning, the same but shiny. New roof, glazing and cladding; power, heating and lighting systems replaced by more efficient, sustainable, environmentally friendly technologies. Restoration embraced technical advances simply not at the disposal of the original designers. The renovated Burrell has UV fenestration, a lowered carbon footprint saves 1200 tons of CO2 a year. As the youngest building ever to be an A listed, heritage aspects were observed.

Brexit and Covid made extra problems. New display cases came from Belgium; their installation team too. Customs delays and self-isolation compounded difficulties. Factory Covid outbreaks ensured delays. Contractors and specialists must be congratulated. It's a miracle the Burrell is opening at all.

So how did the Burrell get its poetic personality and magic atmosphere? Few know that the main co-author was a 27 year old woman, Brit Andresen, working in Cambridge with Gasson Meunier Architects. She went on to a distinguished architectural career, at London’s Architectural Association, UCLA and Queensland University where she is now an award winning professor emeritus, but has been well and truly forgotten here. Yet her touch is everywhere in the Burrell's subtle arrangements of space and light.

She too remembers Burrell’s first curator William Wells who I visited in the 1970s in his tiny, cramped damp office, vintage filing cabinet revealing faded documents on the cost of breath-taking Degas pictures. None were insured. Mr Wells didn't understand my amazement. 'There’s no money for that!' he exclaimed.

Now £68m on, changes made to this internationally renowned icon are more than most expected. I reserve judgement until the grand reveal. The test will be when the Burrell opens and we can see if it works. I pray that it does.

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