The idea behind the River Terrace, The Admiralty restaurant and The Admiralty Delicatessen at Somerset House was to create a public leisure route linking Waterloo Bridge, the Great Courtyard and King’s College, while deflecting attention away from the austere atmosphere of the Inland Revenue offices.
The refurbishment of Somerset House, which houses The Gilbert Collection of 20th century decorative arts, Russian Imperial art and The Courtauld Institute of Art’s Impressionist paintings, was completed in May. Architect Jeremy Dixon Edward Jones was asked to draw on the relationship between the river and the south terrace, and create a public space in the courtyard, which used to be The Inland Revenue’s staff car park. Signage and graphics is by Atelier Works, which used archive images of the building to make the historical tour more entertaining.
The new outdoor cafÃ© is crowned with inverted glass fibre canopies and enshrined with glass guards. These structures double as a wind protector and observatory for visitors. ‘We developed the idea of canopies so people could sit on the terrace seasonally between May and September,’ says Philip Hastings, designer at Dixon Jones.
A teak, bronze-based balustrade is an unexpected walkway to the cafÃ©, sitting in a herbaceous planting scheme. Wooden decking provides a platform for stainless steel tables and chairs, by Italian designer Vico Magistretti. The chic structure gives the impression that it is floating towards the river. Edward Jones, partner at Dixon Jones, explains: ‘Part of the experience is to be outside and not feel entirely cocooned by glass.’
Architect: Jeremy Dixon Edward Jones
Lighting: Lighting Design Partnership
Interiors: Katheryn Firth at Dixon Jones
Signage and graphics: Atelier Works
Disability consultants: C Wycliffe Noble