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National Portrait Gallery, Westminster

Words:
Regional Awards Jury

Jamie Fobert Architects and Purcell win a 2024 RIBA London Award for their revitalised Westminster gallery, bringing clarity and access with a new entrance, forecourt and learning centre

National Portrait Gallery. Credit: olivierhess.com
National Portrait Gallery. Credit: olivierhess.com

2024 RIBA London Award

National Portrait Gallery, Westminster
Jamie Fobert Architects with Purcell for National Portrait Gallery
Contract value: £28m
GIA: 10100m2
Cost per m2: £2,772

London’s National Portrait Gallery, off Trafalgar Square, has undergone a significant transformation to enhance the visitor experience and revitalise its historic spaces. Jamie Fobert Architects’ key interventions include a new public entrance and forecourt, a learning centre and a repurposing of existing offices into public space. Refurbished historical elements of the Grade I-listed building are seamlessly blended with contemporary design. With a more welcoming and accessible space for visitors, the new entrance symbolically reorientates the gallery towards the busy West End neighbourhood to the north, against which the previous entrance turned its back. This move involved the careful alteration of original windows to form new doorways, retaining cut marks at the doorway bases to express the alterations. The new learning centre is located underneath the bridge that links the forecourt to this entrance across a basement void, allowing it to benefit from natural light and an enclosed courtyard.

  • National Portrait Gallery. Credit: Jim Stephenson
    National Portrait Gallery. Credit: Jim Stephenson
  • National Portrait Gallery. Credit: olivierhess.com
    National Portrait Gallery. Credit: olivierhess.com
  • National Portrait Gallery. Credit: Jim Stephenson
    National Portrait Gallery. Credit: Jim Stephenson
  • National Portrait Gallery. Credit: olivierhess.com
    National Portrait Gallery. Credit: olivierhess.com
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The restoration aimed to restore clarity in the gallery’s layout and reintroduce natural light into its galleries, breathing new life into the historic fabric of the space. The meticulous attention to detail in preserving original features and repairing historical elements ensures a harmonious integration of past and present.

Furthermore, the transformation extended to repurposing underused spaces, such as the Weston Wing, which has been converted from offices to house the contemporary collection. This adaptive reuse not only increases public space by approximately 20% but also enriches the visitor experience by providing new opportunities for engagement.

The learning centre under the new entrance bridge is a notable addition to the gallery. Designed to improve learning experiences for visitors of all ages, it is a significant enhancement compared to the previous facilities, providing a range of studios and a courtyard garden for educational activities.

  • National Portrait Gallery. Credit: Jim Stephenson
    National Portrait Gallery. Credit: Jim Stephenson
  • National Portrait Gallery. Credit: Jim Stephenson
    National Portrait Gallery. Credit: Jim Stephenson
  • National Portrait Gallery. Credit: Jim Stephenson
    National Portrait Gallery. Credit: Jim Stephenson
  • National Portrait Gallery. Credit: National Portrait Gallery
    National Portrait Gallery. Credit: National Portrait Gallery
  • National Portrait Gallery. Credit: olivierhess.com
    National Portrait Gallery. Credit: olivierhess.com
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Through a collaborative effort, the National Portrait Gallery transformation celebrates its rich heritage while embracing a concept for the future that is inclusive, engaging and inspiring for generations to come. This revitalisation project reaffirms the gallery’s position as a cultural landmark in the heart of London, poised to continue its legacy of storytelling and connection with the public.

See the rest of the RIBA London winners hereAnd all the RIBA Regional Awards here

To see the whole RIBA Awards process visit architecture.com

RIBA Regional Awards 2024 sponsored by EH Smith and Autodesk

Credits

Contractor Gilbert Ash
Structural engineer Price & Myers
Environmental/M&E engineer Max Fordham LLP
Quantity surveyor/ cost consultant Turner & Townsend
Project management Gardiner & Theobald
Planning Consultant Lichfields

Credit: Jamie Fobert Architects
Credit: Jamie Fobert Architects
Credit: Jamie Fobert Architects
Credit: Jamie Fobert Architects
Credit: Jamie Fobert Architects
Credit: Jamie Fobert Architects

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