Plans exposed for the new Photographers’ Gallery

After months of anticipation, plans for the new Photographers’ Gallery in the heart of London’s Soho were finally unveiled last week by Dublin-based architects O’Donnell & Tuomey.

After months of anticipation, plans for the new Photographers’ Gallery in the heart of London’s Soho were finally unveiled last week by Dublin-based architects O’Donnell & Tuomey.

The proposals signal future opportunities for design consultancies, which will be asked to pitch for work within the gallery when the development reaches the next architectural stage.

The historic London gallery is due to move to the ambitious new £15.5m site on Ramillies Street in 2010, after 36 years at its previous home in Great Newport Street.

Describing the new sixstorey gallery space, lead architect John Tuomey described it as ‘a complex building with a singular expression’. Its overhanging, sky-lit galleries, dramatic picture windows and intersecting floor levels have been inspired by the ‘seismic shift’ between bustling Oxford Street and the quieter backstage delivery streets that surround it.

Tuomey explains, ‘Rather than layering the building like a conventional house, the floors are set out on a spiral journey, in an interlocking design. The lift shaft is key to the whole structure. It provides the central core with the parts of the building almost hanging from it. ‘Each part locks into place like pieces of a jigsaw,’ he adds. A key strategy of the design, he explains, is the vertical circulation of people and artworks that will be displayed around the central lift shaft.

Spread over six floors, the new development will double the current exhibition space and it will include a cutting-edge online resource centre, education space, bookshop and streetlevel café and bar, which the gallery hopes will directly feed into the vibrant cultural life of the Soho area. These are areas where designers will have the chance to offer their skills, as well as signage and graphics work. The exterior of the gallery will be finished in rich Venetian red plaster, specifically designed to reflect the existing red brick building which the new gallery will replace, while complementing the brickwork of the surrounding architecture.

Brett Rogers, director of the Photographers’ Gallery, says, ‘We are delighted that we are moving forward with our plans to create a building worthy of London as one of the world’s great centres for photography, which can do justice to the development of the visual medium of our time.’

Widely regarded as one of the world’s top photographic institutions, ever since the iconic London gallery first opened its doors in January 1971, it has introduced the work of many of the world’s leading photographers. It plays host to the prestigious annual £30 000 Deutsche Börse International Photography Prize and attracts half a million visitors per year.

Martin Parr, photographer and trustee of the Photographers’ Gallery, says, ‘The new site will enable TPG to maintain its position at the centre of debate and exhibitions for British photographic culture. This is the unique contribution the gallery has made over the past 36 years and with more space available in Ramillies Street, it can now expand into this essential role.’


• The Photographers’ Gallery was the world’s first publicly funded independent photography gallery. It was founded by Sue Davies OBE in 1971 at 8 Great Newport Street, London in a converted Lyon’s Tea Bar

• A landmark in its own right, the new building is the first major UK commission by acclaimed Irish architect O’Donnell & Tuomey

• The Photographers’ Gallery is Europe’s most visited gallery dedicated to photography, with approximately 500 000 visitors per year

• The Arts Council of England provides the gallery with most of its core funding

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