Guernsey Press

Victor Hugo Centre ‘a catalyst for greater exploration’

A VISION for how Guernsey can celebrate its inspiration of a literary giant has become a little clearer with the release of architects’ images of a planned Victor Hugo Centre.

Hugo's own intriguing illustrations will invite visitors further into the world of his imagination.. (32121550)

The main gallery space within the centre will feature a multi-media 3D model of Guernsey which will highlight the many locations around the island from which the writer drew inspiration.

‘It will act as a catalyst for greater exploration of the island,’ said VHC group chairman Larry Malcic.

‘The physical model of the island will have built-in intelligence. You’ll be able to ask it where Hugo went to swim, where he took his picnics, where he learned about shipbuilding and which places he was inspired by on his 350 carriage rides around the island. The benefit of his being a committed diarist is that we have all this information recorded.’

Large screens surrounding the central gallery will depict the island’s shoreline in benign weather but every few minutes the mood will transform, with dark seas and storm clouds being accompanied by some of Hugo’s idiosyncratic artwork.

‘Standing in the central gallery really will be an immersive experience,’ Mr Malcic said.

The centre is intended to be a fully interactive experience for those who visit it.. (32121554)

The former design principal at HOK’s London Studio has a proven track record of creating such enveloping museums, having been the design lead for the award-winning Churchill Museum in Whitehall and the

Natural History Museum’s Darwin Centre.

The design for the St Peter Port project is being produced by architects Casson Mann and Guernsey firm DLM Architects.

The ambition is to produce a centre which demonstrates the effects of the island on Hugo and his extraordinary body of work.

‘When he arrived here in 1855, he had – by his standards – published relatively little work of note for the previous decade,’ Mr Malcic said, ‘but during his 15 years in exile in Guernsey, he became prolific, publishing his best-known work Les Miserables and of course writing his Guernsey novel Les Travailleurs de la Mer. What we want to emphasise is that the facets of the island that inspired him are still here and are still inspiring.’

Economic Development has given its backing to the idea of turning the old States Offices at the North Plantation into an interpretation centre.

The building is currently used as a tourist information centre and was identified as a suitable location after it was confirmed Visit Guernsey would be vacating it.

The centre is intended to be a fully interactive experience for those who visit it.. (32121556)

Mr Malcic said early discussions had indicated that a ‘peppercorn rent’ would be payable to the States once the centre was in place but the funding of the project will have to come from a combination of public fundraising and potential benefactors.

‘Work could start as early as next year but we need to have sufficient pledges of funding in place by then,’ Mr Malcic said.

‘Realistically, if we cannot raise the necessary funds in 18 months to two years, then we won’t raise it in 10.’

The ‘gateway attraction’ is intended to house displays focusing on Hugo himself, his family, his Guernsey friends and his mistress Juliette Drouet, as well as ‘doll’s house’ style model of his Hauteville House residence.

An educational section is also planned, which will focus not just on Hugo’s novels, poetry, plays and paintings but also on his human rights campaigning, while the prospect of a purpose-built, intimate music venue has already piqued the interest of the

Schools Music Service, Mr Malcic said.

‘We will be honouring heritage but also investing in the future.’