Softroom has won the pitch to revamp The Wallace Collection’s Grade II-listed museum building.
The London consultancy, known for its award-winning work on the Virgin Atlantic Airways business class lounge, beat exhibition design groups Small Back Room, Drinkall Dean, Gianni Botsford, and Gitta Gschwendtner, chosen in February from around 40 responses to the tender (DW 14 February).
The new design – a largely interiors-based scheme with little change to the building fabric – best answers the brief to transform the museum ent – rance and address orientation and visitor overcrowding, says Malcolm Reading, head of Malcolm Reading Consultants, which oversaw and ran the tender process.
Softroom’s ideas centre on restoring the sense of arrival at a grand house, rather than at an institution, according to Soft – room partner Oliver Salway.
He explains, ’We looked at stripping away accumulated lay – ers of kiosks, desks and signs to try to give it back a sense of grandeur. The recep tion desk will be replaced by greeters’ podiums, that are less formal and people can gather around.’
Continuity between the rest of the ‘house’ and the lobby area will be created by extending material elements such as floor finishes from the hall to the retail space.
‘We’re also looking at taking out a glazed screen that was put in in the 1980s, which creates a barrier between the lobby and the house, to restore a sense of symmetry and light,’ he adds. Reading comments, ‘The main priority was to balance the need to improve facilities with maintaining the feel of an 18th century London house, and it was Softroom that balanced those two [requirements] best.’
‘The [Softroom] team realised that half of [the challenge] was a functional problem and the other half about creating ambience. The jury was unanimous,’ he adds.
Other, more radical, propo – sals included Gschwendt ner’s design to make major structural changes to the front of the building, using contemporary material to create a minimal effect, contrasting with the opulence and tradi tional feel of the rest of the museum.
Work on the museum is scheduled to begin before the end of the year, with the aim for it to be completed by summer 2009.
SOFTROOM’S WINNING APPROACH
• Introducing roof light in lobby
• Improving pedestrian approach to front doors
• Removing the furniture in the lobby and replace with podiums for reception staff, to make the area seem less institutional and the staff more approachable
• Free-standing orientation points which can be changed for evening events
• Continuation of floor materials from the hall into the shop
• Creating space around the fireplace