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National Portrait Gallery launches public appeal to raise funds for major transformation
Proposed North Façade entrance and forecourt. Jamie Fobert Architects / image by Forbes Massie Studio.

LONDON.- The National Portrait Gallery has revealed the first images of proposed designs by Jamie Fobert Architects, working in partnership with Purcell, for the Gallery’s biggest ever development since the building in St Martin’s Place, London opened in 1896. The designs were unveiled as the Gallery launched Make History, a public appeal to raise funds for the £35.5 million project. Inspiring People will see a significant refurbishment of the building, restoring historic features and creating a new and more welcoming visitor entrance and public forecourt on the building’s North Façade, enhancing the Gallery’s visibility and accessibility.

The re-development plans also include a complete re-display and re-interpretation of the Gallery’s Collection across 40 refurbished galleries, presenting a greater and more diverse selection of portraits; the return of the Gallery’s East Wing to public use as the new Weston Wing, including restoring the original gallery spaces and the creation of new retail and catering facilities; and a new Learning Centre for visitors of all ages with studios, breakout spaces and high quality practical facilities.

In addition to the work at St Martin’s Place, Inspiring People will also see the Gallery’s most extensive programme of activities nationwide with plans to engage audiences onsite, locally, regionally and online. Activity includes a UK-wide schools programme for teaching history and art through portraiture, new partnerships with museums and organisations throughout the country, and a national skills-sharing collaboration with other museums and galleries.

The Gallery has launched the Make History fundraising campaign to help secure funds for the project. Members of the public can support the appeal in several ways including helping to fund new mosaics, which will form part of Jamie Fobert's design, or adopting one of 18 original stone busts on the exterior of the building. The roundels feature the founders of the Gallery as well as eminent portrait artists, biographical writers and historians including Hans Holbein the Younger, Sir Anthony van Dyck and Sir Joshua Reynolds.

New North Façade entrance and forecourt
The proposed new entrance and forecourt on the North Façade of the Gallery will allow a more welcoming and generous entrance to the National Portrait Gallery, while also relieving the existing congested visitor access at the main entrance. The eastern set of tripartate windows in the north elevation will be altered to form three doorways leading to a new, more open entrance hall, which links comfortably with the Gallery’s Ondaatje Wing Main Hall and will better connect the building.

The proposed forecourt is envisaged to be a civic space of the highest quality designed with both the public and Gallery visitor in mind. Drawing on the history of the building, the forecourt floor design features a contemporary interpretation of the ‘fan pattern,’ which runs through the Gallery’s original mosaic floors, guiding the visitor through the proposed public space and into the Gallery and creating continuity between the old and the new.

The proposal keeps the Gallery’s existing entrance operational, with new step free access, and less congestion, allowing the building’s original Victorian architecture to be appreciated.

Complete re-display and re-interpretation of the Collection
The Inspiring People project provides the unique opportunity to rehang and re-interpret the entire Collection as well as upgrade the gallery spaces, celebrating the existing architecture and decorative features. Maintaining a chronological approach, the project will see the first comprehensive top-to-bottom re-display of the Collection from the Tudors to now, displaying works that are relevant to a wider range of audiences and presenting missing or hidden stories from significant moments in British history. Set amongst the Gallery’s best-loved paintings will be more works drawn from the Gallery’s extensive Collection of 250,000 photographs, ranging from 1840 to the present day.

The Weston Wing
The East Wing of the Gallery, part of the original 1896 building, will be re-opened to the public as the new Weston Wing. This will include converting what is currently office space back into stunning top-lit galleries on the First Floor. The Ground Floor level will be refurbished providing a flexible gallery and social space with its own dedicated entrance at street level.

Learning Centre
Inspiring People will transform the quality of learning provision at the Gallery through the creation of a much-improved Learning Centre. The new Learning Centre will increase the Gallery’s learning spaces from one studio to three. Each studio will have specialist equipment and breakout spaces, offering a better experience for schools, families, young people, community groups and adult learners.

The Gallery has now secured £27.4m of its £35.5m fundraising target. This includes the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund who have awarded development funding of £900,000, which will enable the Gallery to apply for a full National Lottery grant of £9.4m, and a £5 million grant from the Trustees of the Garfield Weston Foundation towards the creation of a new public wing.

The Gallery aims to reach its target of £35.5m by Spring 2019 in order to complete the project by 2023. An application for planning and listed building consent was submitted in January 2019 and building work is scheduled to start in summer 2020.

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