Picture gallery cafe at Dulwich Picture Gallery

Architect: Rick Mather: Lighting: Lighting Design partnership: Interior and graphics signage: Matthew McGrory at Rick Mather

Architect Rick Mather was responsible for designing a café interior that would complement Sir John Soane’s original building, showcasing 17th and 18th century old masters, while taking advantage of the open countryside surrounding the site and providing a welcome addition to the local Dulwich village restaurant scene.

Matthew McGrory, from Mather’s office, created the signage, drawing on Soane’s original Caslon Egyptian lettering in an attempt to make reference to the past. The simple use of a Greek key on the front window of the café is echoed on all the graphics for the merchandise.

The pavillion-style café stands free in the gallery’s gardens and is well positioned to catch a steady flow of human traffic. The play of light is important to its design. Natural light comes through glass channels in the ceiling, while south-facing windows open to integrate with the garden. Lighting Design Partnership developed an overall glow by hiding fluorescent spotlights in a curvaceous canvas panel suspended from the ceiling. This feature distributes light and deadens the sound of timber floors and exposed walls. ‘Buildings have to work well on a grey, cloudy day in England, otherwise you never get the chance to enjoy them,’ says Mather.

Large expanses of polished plaster walls create an illusion of space, while complementing a natural palette of beige chairs designed by Philippe Stark, oak-trimmed tables and brushed stainless steel counters with frosted glass fronts.

The café links to a glass and bronze cloister set around a quadrangle. Kate Knowles, marketing director of the Dulwich Picture Gallery, says: ‘We did not want a pastiche, but a building with integrity that complements the original architecture by Soane.’

Architect: Rick Mather

Lighting: Lighting Design partnership

Interior and graphics signage: Matthew McGrory at Rick Mather

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