The Sainsbury Wing (4)

I have just been to the lecture which Annabelle Selldorf gave at the RIBA under the title ‘The Work We Do’, but essentially an opportunity for her to explain her thinking behind the changes she has proposed to the Sainsbury Wing, which she did extremely carefully and – to me at least – very persuasively.

Some initial thoughts:-

1. The original stepped entrance to the Wilkins Building is exceptionally inhospitable and was perhaps designed to be. There was a barracks just to the north of where the National Portrait Gallery now is from which troops could pour through the basement of the National Gallery to quell riots in Trafalgar Square. The original portico may have been designed to keep the public out, not to welcome them in. So, there is a logic, as Selldorf described, to making the Sainsbury Wing into the main entrance, not least for security purposes.

2. Jeremy Dixon and Edward Jones proposed steps down from the Wilkins Portico as part of their work on the Wilkins Building, following the model of the steps which were added to the Metropolitan Museum in the mid-1960s. But this was not part of the brief to Selldorf and would probably encounter huge opposition.

3. The plans for subtly changing and enhancing the public space between the Sainsbury Wing and the Wilkins Building are exemplary, getting rid of the odd courtyard garden which was originally planned, I think, when the Keeper was resident in the south-west corner of the Wilkins Building.

4. The plans for the ground floor spaces in the Sainsbury Wing have evolved significantly. Instead of being designed as a contrast to the Venturi Scott Brown building, they have now been designed with much greater sympathy to Venturi Scott Brown’s original monumental vocabulary, including keeping their Egyptian columns, the same ceiling detailing and rustication. The original ground floor spaces were severely compromised by the bookshop and much extraneous clutter and it will be a great benefit that these spaces are cleaned up and restored to a version of their original appearance.

5. There is a great deal about the project which has not really appeared in the public domain, including a proper entrance from Trafalgar Square to new research facilities.

Over the summer, there has been much opposition to the scheme. I hope that the lecture will be published. It should be because it made so clear how much care and thought has gone into the scheme, including more effective illustrations than the hideous CGI which made the entrance look like an airport terminal.


5 thoughts on “The Sainsbury Wing (4)

  1. fionabaigriehooper says:

    Dear Charles,

    I have trouble logging in to leave comments. I am not on Twitter or Facebook. The WordPress option bounces me out repeatedly. Can you assist?

    Thank you,

    Fiona Hooper

  2. bendorgrosvenor says:

    Hi Charles, is there any evidence that audiences, in sufficient numbers to make a difference, actually take museum entrances into consideration when deciding to visit? B

    • Dear Bendor, She referred to a great deal of evidence supplied by the National Gallery that they find the entrance to the Sainsbury Wing gloomy/confusing/unfriendly/forbidding, but I can’t claim to have seen it myself. Charles

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