Dulwich Picture Gallery to expand its visitor experience in first major transformation of site for over 20 years

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Tuesday, February 27, 2024


Dulwich Picture Gallery to expand its visitor experience in first major transformation of site for over 20 years
Innovative plans will fully integrate the existing gardens with the Gallery, opening up previously inaccessible land with an interactive sculpture garden and a new building for families. Courtesy Carmody Groarke.



LONDON.- Dulwich Picture Gallery has received planning permission for an innovative transformation of its site and three acres of green space, in its biggest redevelopment in over 20 years. A brand new, free to access outdoor gallery will extend the visitor experience into the gardens while a new building and extension will reveal new views of the site and provide much needed facilities for families, with a focus on art and creative play.

Under the banner ‘Open Art’, the ambitious plans will maximise the Gallery’s unique potential - its building, art, gardens, people and location - for future generations. To deliver this vision, the Gallery has appointed award-winning architects Carmody Groarke alongside leading landscape artist Kim Wilkie.

The proposed developments comprise a series of permanent enhancements across the site including innovative landscaping of the Gallery’s currently under-utilised field to transform it into a meadow which will host a new biennial sculpture competition; a series of interactive artworks in the Gallery’s gardens; improved facilities for schools and families; and a new building to house creative play and activities for families.

Dulwich Picture Gallery is well placed to deliver this vision. Its ambition to host more accessible, interactive art in the gardens follows the overwhelming success of the Dulwich Pavilion projects of 2017 and 2019, which put new and emerging artists on the map, brought new audiences to the site, and established the Gallery as a leading destination for outdoor art and creative experiences. It also has an established and renowned family and schools programme providing valuable experiences for the artists of the future. Finding much needed space in the gardens answers a continuing need for extra facilities.

Construction is set to start in winter 2023 with the aim for all elements to be completed by early 2025. The Gallery will remain open throughout.

Dulwich Picture Gallery is a registered charity and does not receive regular statutory or local authority funding. With anticipated costs of £4.6 million, the Gallery is actively fundraising to support its plans, with applications to trusts and foundations currently in process. The impact of the project will support the Gallery’s business model ahead, aiming to double visitor numbers and instances of public engagement over the next ten years. With a longer-term view of the use of the Gallery’s site, Open Art is driven by the Gallery’s vision – to be a cultural destination for everyone to find themselves in art.

Planned developments:

The Lovington Meadow


Designed by leading landscape artist Kim Wilkie, the currently under-utilised field at the south side of the gardens will be transformed into a meadow featuring an undulating land art form and an ‘art forest’ of around 150 newly planted trees. It will also be home to a new biennial sculpture competition. In addition, extensive new planting, which includes wildflowers such as yarrow and oxeye daisy, will enhance biodiversity in the area by 17%.

The Meadow is generously funded by The Lovington Foundation and will celebrate the environmental and health benefits of using green space for art.

The Gallery Gardens

The gardens will feature a series of temporary sculpture installations which will be interactive, encouraging visitors to play, touch, sit and engage. These artworks will join Walking the Dog by Peter Randall-Page, acquired in 2011, and Bronze Oak Grove by Rob and Nick Carter. The latter has been on loan to the Gallery for the past two years and is much-loved by visitors as an engaging contemporary piece that references the art of the past. The Gallery aims to acquire this sculpture which will set the tone for the sculpture garden.

Additionally, beech hedges between the meadow and gardens will be removed, opening views across the site and restoring elements of Sir John Soane’s original vision for the Gallery when it was first designed in 1811.

A new hub for families and schools

The Gallery has appointed award-winning architects, Carmody Groarke to design a brand-new building and an extension for the existing cottage, in order to animate areas that are not currently open to the public. These interventions will provide much-needed facilities for school groups and young children offering art-based learning experiences. It will be based in two buildings: The Gallery Cottage, which will be extended and serve as a space for school lunches, and a family café and shop, and a new gallery to the south of the cottage which will host art-based creative play sessions for under-8-year olds.

Environmental sustainability

As part of the project a new ground source heat pump will decarbonise the existing gallery’s heating systems alongside supplying new buildings. The new pavilion building and the extension to the existing cottage will be constructed with lightweight timber frames resulting in low embodied carbon construction.

Jennifer Scott, Director of Dulwich Picture Gallery, said: “The vision for Open Art is grounded in the principles of innovation and inclusion which have defined the Gallery since we first opened to the public in 1817. This exciting project will transform our green spaces into London’s only gallery-based sculpture garden, providing new creative experiences for everyone, and inspiring the artists of the future.”

Andy Groarke, Director, Carmody Groarke said: “We are delighted that the transformative plans for the Gallery’s Open Art programme have received approval from Southwark Council. We have enjoyed working with the Gallery to develop their vision, enhancing the enjoyment of art and architecture within the wider landscape. We look forward to bringing the project to fruition in the coming months.”

Kim Wilkie, leading landscape artist, said: “One of the richest parts of British ecosystems are meadows edged with trees, with that combination of shade and shelter, open grassland and wildflowers. In terms of biodiversity and human enjoyment, it’s probably the best that you can get. Given the focus on children enjoying art and the environment, The Lovington Meadow is a particularly special project, and I’m excited to see it come to fruition as a space for this and future generations to enjoy.”










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