Wilkinson Eyre Architects leads £17.5m Wellcome Collection development project

London arts and science centre the Wellcome Collection has announced a £17.5m development project including the creation of two new galleries, to be overseen by Wilkinson Eyre Architects.

Wellcome Collection development project, cross section

Source: (c) Wilkinson Eyre Architects

Wellcome Collection development project, cross section

While a number of design consultancies are yet to be appointed for the different spaces the project comprises, it has been revealed that AOC Architects will be working on new Reading Room designs.

As well as the new gallery spaces, the development – the first major project since the Wellcome Collection opened in 2007 – will also see work on the Reading Room, a youth events studio for 14-19 year-olds, a new restaurant and a new thematic gallery, which will hold in-depth exhibitions over the course of a year, with a mixture of semi-permanent displays and exhibits during the run of the show. The first will be about sex.

Wilkinson Eyre won a tender for the project in January this year, while AOC was appointed following a separate tender in the summer.

Wilkinson Eyre will be creating a new staircase in the Wellcome Collection entrance hall, leading visitors to new areas previously closed-off to the public.

Wellcome Collection development project, cross section

Source: (c) Wilkinson Eyre Architects

Spiral stair, Wellcome Collection development project

Jim Eyre, director of Wilkinson Eyre Architects, says, ‘One of the problems we observed when we visited was that when you went up the stairs, you always felt, “can I go further?”

‘The brief was to improve circulation. We wanted to find a way to get people to move up the building, so we’re creating a staircase linking the ground, first and second floors. There’s an idea of it as a dynamic object – an eye-catcher in a way.’

A new restaurant will be created on the Wellcome Collection’s second floor, with interiors also by Wilkinson Eyre. The existing Wellcome Collection café is run by operators Peyton & Byrne, though it is not yet known to whom the new restaurant will be franchised.

Wellcome museum, view of statuary hall showing various arrangements.

Source: (c)Wellcome Library, London

Wellcome museum, view of statuary hall showing various arrangements.

The new Reading Room, designed by AOC Architects, will see the existing reading room ‘transformed into an innovative public space’, according to the Wellcome Collection. It will feature objects from the collection alongside displays of books, and the research library will be expanded.

Ken Arnold, head of public programmes at the Wellcome Collection, says, ‘Our new thematic gallery and youth events studio will give a greater depth to the Wellcome Collection experience and allow us to experiment across our programmes with bold new exhibition and event formats.

‘The spaces will allow us to challenge and inspire the curious minds of or growing number of visitors.’

Work will begin on the project next summer, and the project is scheduled for completion in summer 2014.

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