Courtauld Gallery gears up for November reopening following modernisation
London’s Courtauld Gallery at Somerset House is set for November reopening following extensive modernisation by architecture studio Witherford Watson Mann
Witherford Watson Mann (WWM) has competed its modernisation of London’s Courtauld Gallery. The much loved art destination in Somerset House has been undergoing extensive reimagining by the Stirling Prize-winning architects for some five years, but has just announced a November return to the capital’s cultural scene.
Working through the gallery with surgical precision, the architects have refreshed the building, completely reintepreting the visitor’s journey, and restoring and enhancing spaces within. The institution is made up of ‘disconnected houses/vertical buildings originally constructed to provide homes to a varied set of government offices and learned societies’, say the architects. Using historical references and a keen eye for sensitively mixing old and new, WWM has worked hard to balance the needs of a heritage building with those of a prime, 21st century cultural landmark.
This includes the restored Blavatnik Fine Rooms and the (newly named) LVMH Great Room – London’s oldest exhibition space, which was previously subdivided into smaller sections and will now be used to display Impressionist work. Alongside them, a brand new gallery has been created on the first floor for The Courtauld’s collection of paintings and decorative arts from the Medieval and Early Renaissance periods.
Apart from the gallery, the transformation has also addressed The Courtauld’s facilities for teaching, research and students. This part of the project is much about functionality and the experiencing of art by everyone, as accessibility will be dramatically improved, and encompasses a redesigned reception area, carefully thought-out lighting, non-reflective showcase glass ramps, and a lift.
‘This ambitious transformation project reimagines Sir William Chambers’ masterpiece to make it a public building fit for the 21st century,’ says practice co-director Stephen Witherford. ‘Through a careful balance of studious conservation and bold intervention we wanted to reveal the layers of the building’s evolution. Opening up spaces and transforming the layout of the building will provide a more versatile infrastructure for exhibition and exchange in a way that resonates with the distinctive characteristics of Chambers’ original design.’
The Courtauld’s collection, which includes masterpieces ranging from the Middle Ages to the 20th century, will relaunch with a variety of shows, the display of Oskar Kokoschka’s epic modern painting, The Myth of Prometheus (which is the largest work in the collection), and a new, contemporary commission by artist Cecily Brown. §