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Artist James Turrell out of picture on McAslan's Quaker HQ plans

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Artist James Turrell will take no further part in John McAslan + Partners’ restoration of Friends House, London, the headquarters of the Quakers in Britain

His departure from the scheme emerged as news came that the practice had won planning for the £4.25million refurbishment of the Grade II-listed building opposite Euston Station in Bloomsbury.

Work is set to begin on the scheme, which has evolved since the first designs were unveiled last August, early next year (2013).

No explanation has been given as to why Turrell was no longer playing a part in the project. A spokeswoman for the Quakers simply said: ‘James Turrell is not involved with plans for Friends House.’

The original designs were described as featuring a frameless piece of glass that ‘will appear to float above the auditorium, connecting the interior spaces to the sky above’ (see below).

Previous story (AJ 18.08.2011)

John McAslan and artist James Turrell unveil Quaker HQ plans

John McAslan + Partners (JMP) has revealed these images of a joint design with artist James Turrell for the restoration of Friends House, London, the headquarters of the Quakers in Britain

At the heart of the project within the Grade II-listed building opposite Euston Station in Bloomsbury is the redesign of the auditorium space.

This new ‘light and tranquil’ meeting room, which will be able to hold up to 1100 people, features a frameless piece of glass that ‘will appear to float above the auditorium, connecting the interior spaces to the sky above’.

1371_F900_S_CC_OP01_A_low_res

The architect’s view

While respecting the qualities of the existing building, designed by Hubert Lidbetter in 1926, our design will increase the capacity of the auditorium by connecting the main seating with the balconies. This rethinking of the auditorium’s structure will change the dynamic of the space: visitors entering on the ground floor will be able to access all areas of the auditorium, creating a more flexible, open space that has drastically improved sightlines.

The original personality of the building, including the oak timber panelling used on the existing walls, will be preserved as well as much of the structure of the auditorium space and improved AV and IT equipment will be installed.

The auditorium space will cater for a wide range of events, including theatre productions, conferences and exhibitions. The central floor space will be raised up, allowing for the space to be naturally ventilated, and the height of this area will be adjustable to create environments for a range of uses. The seating in the auditorium space is also highly-adaptable; the front seating rows will be retractable to increase the size of the flat floor area, making it more suitable for exhibitions.

As well as transforming the central auditorium space, JMP is also working on plans to create a new entrance, catering, breakout and reception areas, which could also see the central courtyard space and the open area at front of Friends House redesigned. We are working with theatre consultant Ann Minors, contractor Alan Baxter, engineer Max Fordham and quantity surveyor Stephen Cuddy on the project.

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