Hawkins\Brown has refurbished Charles Barry’s central London listed building and replaced postwar additions to modernise the institution both physically and culturally
RIBA West London Regional Award 2023
Royal College of Surgeons of England, Lincoln’s Inn Fields
Hawkins\Brown for Royal College of Surgeons of England
Contract value: £79.7 million
Cost per m2: £5,537
The Royal College of Surgeons of England has a 200-year history in its home on Lincoln’s Inn Fields, in central London. The project encompassed the refurbishment of the Grade II*-listed building designed by Charles Barry (which houses the Hunterian Museum) and aimed to modernise the institution both physically and culturally.
Hawkins\Brown refurbished the historic building and replaced postwar additions, which included warren-like corridors and the inefficient layouts built following significant bomb damage in the 1940s. A second phase of the project involved refurbishing the Hunterian Museum’s ground floor, as a key part of the college's ambition to create a more public, outward-facing institution that invites visitors to explore the remaining parts of John Hunter’s surgical collection.
The retained historical part of the original building is a single room deep, containing the entrance portico with the college’s library and ancillary accommodation above. In reference to the original plan configuration, Hawkins\Brown has brought emphasis to the point of arrival, tranlating Barry’s original entrance hall into a grand atrium, and giving equal emphasis to the stair up to the first-floor library. The atrium also now connects to the new Hunterian Museum and indeed offers the possibility for the museum to extend up through the heart of the building, with parts of the collection displayed at the atrium’s perimeter.
Referencing the original daylight backdrop to the entrance hall, Hawkins\Brown introduced a connection to the rear of the site to provide a less formal second entrance from Portugal Street. This brings in natural light and opens up the potential for greater connectivity.
The jury were intrigued by the tension between the historic building and the contemporary extension, with reconfigured circulation spaces straddling the threshold between historical fabric and new elements. Built heritage is celebrated, with the rear wall of the original building limewashed and used as a backdrop for the display of parts of the collection, lit to dramatic effect. However, the project’s spatial emphasis sits firmly in the atrium itself, which includes a number of stairways that zigzag across at high level to form a processional route.
In removing the postwar extension and replacing it with a modern, energy-efficient building, Hawkins\Brown was able to rethink how the historic building was serviced. The new building provides all the necessary systems, so the original structure is not encumbered by ducting and plant. This has allowed the architects to restore and display the historic interiors as they were originally intended.
Externally, the original frontage has been repaired and refurbished, with a new ramp allowing step-free access up to the main entrance. The new rear facade, on Portugal Street takes reference from the historical portico’s columns, with fluted, chamfered precast concrete elements forming a rusticated base to the new extension.
Overall, the jury appreciated that this is a highly complex building with a number of technical challenges stemming from the client’s brief, which has been delivered effectively. The transformation allows the Royal College of Surgeons be a more open, flexible, and accessible institution.
Client Royal College of Surgeons of England
Contractor Wates Construction
Structural engineer Aecom
Services engineer Aecom
Planning consultant Gerald Eve
Project management LendLease
Project manager museum fit-out Fraser Randall
Museum specialist Casson Mann
Museum Fit Out Beck Interiors
Heritage consultant Montagu Evans
Landscape architect BD Landscape
Inclusive design Lord Consultants
Quantity surveyor/cost consultant Artelia
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