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Purcell wins approval for major National Gallery extension

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Westminster City Council has approved plans by Purcell for an infill extension at the Grade I-listed National Gallery

The approved scheme, called the Accommodation Hub, involves creating additional space in the east ground floor of the main building, designed by William Wilkins from 1832 to 1838. 

It will be used to relocate 250 members of staff currently based at the neighbouring St Vincent House or on the ground floor and basement of the Wilkins Building.

Planning documents say by freeing up floorspace in St Vincent House and the Wilkins Building, the scheme will lay the groundwork for the possible ‘expansion and development of gallery operations for wider public benefit’.

The proposals include removing partitions, subdivisions and lowered ceilings throughout the central ground floor area and installing an open plan office space with high ceilings.

Two covered atria will be created in the Sunley and Belvedere lightwells, and new floors will be inserted in the Sunley lightwell to provide office space. The basement areas will be overhauled to provide storage and meeting space.

David Hills, a partner at Purcell, said the Accommodation Hub will ‘revolutionise the gallery’s workplaces by bringing functions together into new state-of-the-art facilities in the heart of the building’.

He added: ‘This will provide new opportunities for collaboration and developing new working practices, benefiting staff and reinforcing the status of the National Gallery as a world-class institution.’

The approval came despite objections from the neighbouring National Portrait Gallery, which sits to the north of the National Gallery.

According to the planning report for the committee, the National Portrait Gallery objected to the plans because ‘the extension to the Sunley lightwell would impact on views from the Portrait Restaurant’, and it was also concerned by ‘site access and delivery management, and how this could impact [on ourselves]’.

A National Portrait Gallery spokesperson said: ‘The National Portrait Gallery and the National Gallery will continue to work together to find a mutually satisfying solution, following the decision by Westminster Council to grant the National Gallery planning permission to undertake some building works at the rear of the building.’

In March, Purcell completed Gallery B, which provided an additional 200m² exhibition space at the National Gallery and was the first major extension since the Sainsbury Wing in 1991.

Project data

Architect Purcell
Structural engineer The Morton Partnership
Services engineer Andrew Reid & Partners
QS and commissioning manager Faithful Gould
Fire consultant IFC
Planning consultant Montagu Evans
Acoustic consultant Waterman Acoustics


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