Jestico & Whiles goes on site this week at the Foundling Museum in London’s Bloomsbury to begin restoration of what was, in effect, Britain’s first public art gallery. The building is due to open to visitors this time next year.
Childcare charity Coram Family established the Foundling Museum trust in 1999 as a means of preserving a 150-strong collection of paintings by artists such as Gainsborough, Hogarth, and Ramsey. The museum will also tell the story of the Foundling Hospital set up by Thomas Coram in 1739.
The property is a 1930s Grade IIlisted building, housing a reconstructed 18th century interior taken from the original hospital before its demolition in the 1920s.
The design style will contrast ‘contemporary interventions’, including a modern extension in a rear light well, a glazed access ramp and permanent and temporary gallery spaces, with the historic aspects of the site.
Jestico & Whiles director Heinz Richardson, who is creative lead on the project, believes the group’s approach will enhance the museum’s accessibility.
He says, ‘In opening [the space] up to the public we are effecting a third phase of the building’s history in a contemporary way. Using modern styles and technology strengthens the importance of the historic elements and makes them more easily understood.’
Exhibition design is being carried out by the London arm of US group Ralph Appelbaum Associates under director Philip Teft. The ground-floor space will deal with the social history, while the picture gallery occupies the first floor.
The building will also house the Handel Study Centre, containing a library, archives and exhibition devoted to the composer – and friend of Coram – G F Handel.