Whitechapel Gallery, London, United Kingdom

In the best museums and galleries one finds one's way through a series of rooms, where the artefacts are carefully lit and set off by calm backgrounds. A degree of repetition helps navigation, some variation helps orientation. The proposals for the Whitechapel Art Gallery are bold in their restraint (someone commented: 'where’s the architecture?') and seize a simple but powerful opportunity: lower and upper floors are configured as circuits of rooms, with the stylistically different but volumetrically similar existing galleries linked up by smaller, more domestically scaled gallery spaces. The subtle rhythms and contrasts of the rooms form the backdrop to the wide variety of work on display (historic and contemporary art, room sized sculptures and miniatures).
Client
The Trustees Whitechapel Gallery
Architects
Robbrecht en Daem architecten, Witherford Watson Mann Architects
Program
expansion of the art gallery
Location
London, United Kingdom
Date
2003–2009
Status
Completed
Floor Surface
3.700 m2
Team
Paul Robbrecht, Hilde Daem, Kristoffel Bogaert, Chris Watson, William Mann, Matthias Baeten, Daniela Büter, Sam De Vocht, Gert Jansseune, Miriam Koudmani, Joerg Maier, Henning Roeschmann, Tinne Verwerft, Wouter Willems
Execution Architect
Witherford Watson Mann Architects
Art Intervention
Rodney Graham, Rachel Whiteread
Project Manager
Mott MacDonald
Restoration
Richard Griffiths Architects
Structural Engineering
Price & Myers
Services Engineering
Max Fordham LLP
Nominations / Awards
2011 – Nominated for the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture – Mies van der Rohe Award
Fire Engineering
David Bonnet Associates, HCD Group
Lighting
Jason Bruges Studio
This project involves the unification of the Whitechapel Public Library and Whitechapel Art Gallery buildings, both dating from the late nineteenth-century period of philanthropic works in the East End, and the adaptation of the library for gallery use. With a strong emphasis on education and community engagement, the project to re-unite the buildings continues the original ideals. Offering flexibility of use as well as contemporary standards of access, the galleries are served by a single, unified circulation core, with the lift on the party wall between two buildings and a new stair beside the existing nineteenth century library stair.

The former ground floor library reading room and first floor museum, used as gallery spaces – for installations and visiting collections respectively – retaining as much as possible of their historic and ‘worn’ character. Daylight is introduced into the ground floor gallery by new rooflights and controlled on the first floor through external louvres. The new link galleries at first floor level offer glimpses out to the surrounding area, forming small breaks in the light, content and context of the otherwise utterly focused visual theatre. A new streetfront cafe and archive space make use of existing rooms of character. In the upper levels of the library building, new education studios have been created, with a clear span, north-lit studio on the top floor taking advantage of views out over the 'City Fringe'. Text by William Mann