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AHMM and Paul Davis take on new Saatchi Gallery

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AHMM and Paul Davis & Partners have joined forces to work up designs for the Saatchi Gallery's new Chelsea home, the AJ can reveal.

After news broke yesterday of gallery owner Charles Saatchi's spat with his current County Hall landlord Makota Okamoto, Paul Davis and Simon Allford both confirmed their appointment to draw up designs for a new space.

The two practices will adapt 5,000m 2of office space in a 1801 west London grade II*-listed former army barracks (pictured), to house one of London's most high-profile collections of contemporary art.

The new look will mark a radical departure from the gallery's former home in County Hall, which has attracted criticism for its inappropriateness as a modern art gallery. It is also 1,000m 2smaller than the new King's Road gallery.

Allford - whose practice was appointed directly by the Saatchi Gallery - described the new gallery as four very large, well-lit spaces across two floors, with a bookshop and café in the basement. It will be accessible from a new public square.

Paul Davis, who has been dealing with the ongoing redevelopment of the Duke of York's Headquarters since 1999, will be managing the project design on behalf of the building's owner, Cadogan Estates.

Davis will be dealing with the listed-building elements of a forthcoming planning application - including the restoration of the building's second floor and main staircase.

The architect scotched rumours that the new gallery would be less accessible via public transport than County Hall, which is located on the south bank of the Thames. 'The building's owners are anxious that it gives better access to the public. It's bringing some art back into Chelsea,' he said.

The building, at one point occupied by the Ministry of Defence, was apparently 'carved up into smaller spaces', but it is the architects' and Saatchi's intention to return it to its former layout - with its four larger spaces across each of two floors.

A planning application will be made within the next month. Work on the new gallery and the additional third phase of the Duke of York's Headquarters will begin in April 2006.

by Rob Sharp

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