The Science Museum – Dana Research Centre and Library
The Science Museum was well established as a centre for the education and entertainment of budding scientists and the public, but as a home for research not so much.
Now the Dana Research Centre, designed by Coffey Architects, provides a portal for researchers, staff, and the public to the Science Museum’s world-class archive of historical and contemporary scientific and engineering interest.
The Dana Research Centre and Library at the Science Museum, by Coffey Architects
It occupies two floors of the museum’s Wellcome Wolfson Building, and the extensive glazing, generous use of oak tables and cabinetry, plus a unique and decorative solar-shading device gives it a light, uplifting, collegiate atmosphere.
A double layer of metal perforated panels – with holes aligning and misaligning to create a pleasing irregularity – is placed over the larger, upper part of the exterior glazing into the main reading room, shading the room but also animating the library and study spaces with a delicate shadow play.
This canopy device, says practice director Phil Coffey, was inspired by Sir Isaac Newton and his ‘lightbulb moment’ about the nature of gravity. Coffey says the intention was to recreate the feeling of ‘sitting under a tree on a summer’s day, reading’.
The central reading room has a staircase up to the bright upper mezzanine with common room and staff areas above, and below a timber-lined research bar and private study areas are woven between the thick shelves below.
The Dana Centre is part of a £60m campus overhaul planned to revitalise the museum up until 2019, with further additions including an interactive gallery by Muf and a mathematics gallery by Zaha Hadid Architects, which completed in late 2016.
Client: Science Museum
Architecture: Coffey Architects
Area: 545 sq m
Construction cost: £925,000
Schedule: Opened March 2016
Lighting consultant: ZNA
Lambeth Palace Library
Wright & Wright Architects is designing a new, public-facing building to house the internationally renowned Lambeth Palace Library, following a competitive design competition in 2015. Residence of the Archbishops of Canterbury since the 13th century, Lambeth Palace’s existing library sprawls across several medieval buildings in the riverside Grade I listed campus, inhabiting many impromptu shelving systems erected over the centuries.
With items in the collection dating back to the 9th century, it represents the second largest religious archive in Europe, after that of the Vatican. Although few civilians might know it, the library has been accessible to the public, on request, for centuries.
However, the new building, located at the north end of Lambeth Palace gardens, will make this priceless collection more visible. The building is designed to offer a balance between cutting-edge conservation, storage and archive-retrieval with public access. Clad in red-clay brick, the design pays homage to the surrounding historical buildings, and takes the form of an occupied wall, which rises to a compact eight-storey tower.
The books will be kept in this tower, protecting them from potential flooding. The building structure forms a bulwark, screening the garden from pollution and traffic noise, and framing an existing pond. At the top of the tower, a multifunctional public viewing space will offer vistas across the Thames to the Palace of Westminster, reinforcing the symbolic and historic connections between church and state.
Inside the building, public reading rooms will feature huge windows, though daylight will be filtered by the adjacent mature trees. The design has taken into account the need to preserve the historic gardens, and turns the garden vistas into a major feature of the building experience.
Client: Lambeth Palace Library
Architecture: Wright & Wright
Vitra Design Museum Schaudepot
In summer 2016 the campus of Swiss furniture brand Vitra in northern Germany – which already features ‘first’ European buildings by some of the world’s most famous architects (Gehry, Zaha, SANAA, Tadao Ando) – threw open the doors to yet another notable building.
The Schaudepot (showroom) is a vast, red-brick, shed-like building by Herzog & de Meuron that combines state-of-the-art office, retail, cafe and storage space, with a 650 sq m walk-through gallery, where a good proportion of the 20,000 objects in its collection can be displayed and rotated on a seasonal basis. Some 400 key pieces of furniture design, from 1800 to the present day, are displayed in a permanent ground-floor gallery, visible from the shop and reception.
In early 2017, the central area of this gallery was dedicated to a celebration of Dieter Rams. But with 7,000 pieces of furniture, more than 1,000 lights, and collections from the estates of designers including Charles & Ray Eames, Verner Panton, Alvar Aalto and Alexander Girard, there’s plenty of opportunity to refresh the core exhibition around a multitude of themes.
Vitra Design Museum Schaudepot
The basement houses further visitable archive spaces, including the Schaudepot Lab, where workshops and seminars are held on materials, processes and prototypes. Expert guided tours are offered throughout the year, to shed insight on trends and styles, protagonists and producers, and place them in the correct social and art historical context. In this way, the Vitra Design Museum becomes ‘transparent’, offering a comprehensive insight into the history of modern furniture, along with research facilities.
While the Frank Gehry-designed gallery building still houses the museum’s flagship exhibitions, this latest structure became necessary as the collection grew – thanks to the enthusiasm of Vitra chairman Rolf Fehlbaum and his parents, who founded the company – from the few hundred pieces they owned in 1986 to the much bigger and more important collection it had become by the time Gehry finished his gallery building in 1989. Jacques Herzog has stated that the inspiration for the Schaudepot was ‘to have a simple, almost archaic, structure. Four walls, one roof, one door, no windows’.
The building is hermetically sealed from the outside to emphasise the transparency of what is on the inside, so ‘the precious collection of furniture and the workings of a museum can be experienced...on a very intimate level.’ The building itself is of clay-brick masonry, but with the bricks stacked in such a way as to show each brick off with its unique fracture pattern.
Architecture: Herzog & de Meuron
Opened: June 2016
Black Cultural Archives, Brixton
It was 33 years in the making, but the Black Cultural Archives finally opened its doors in Brixton in July 2014. Conceived by a small group of black artists, activists and teachers led by organisation founder and activist Len Garrison around the time of the 1981 Brixton riots, from the outset it was aimed to commemorate the contribution to UK life and culture that black people have made and offset the prevailing negative stereotypes through insight and education.
From a shop front in Coldharbour Lane the group and its slowly accumulating resources were finally given a real chance with £4m from the Heritage Lottery Fund, in partnership with Lambeth Council, which allocated the group the use of the splendid but dilapidated Grade II listed Victorian building Raleigh Hall, in central Brixton.
Architecture practice Pringle Richards Sharatt (PRS) was appointed to restore and refurbish the building. It did so by opening up the central six bays of the original building – the most significant heritage elements – and transforming these into a learning zone, cafe and shop on the ground floor, with archives on the first floor and office spaces above.
The only institution of its kind in the UK, it brings together a wide variety of resources, from a small silver coin depicting Septimus Severus, the black Roman emperor of 208AD, to a collection of photographs from an affluent Edwardian black family, the Barbour-James, as well as the back catalogue of leading black-lifestyle magazines dating from the Seventies.
It was awarded two Civic Trust Awards in 2015.
Client: Black Cultural Archives
Architect: Pringle Richards Sharatt
Exhibition design: Ralph Applebaum
Area: 737 sq m
Cost: Construction cost £3.5m
Completion: July 2014
The National Archives
AOC Architecture was appointed by The national archives at Kew Gardens in 2015, to help bring its extraordinary collection of 11 million records into the hands of the general public. While digitisation is playing a massive part in this shift, The archives building itself is also undergoing a transformation. aoC proposed a phased masterplan over five years, from 2016-21.
AOC director Geoff Shearcroft says: ‘The first phase was opening up the ground-floor entrance and restaurant area, to make it an inviting space that would encourage people to dwell there in the same way that [they do] in the public space in the British Library.’
The second phase, now completing this year, entails building a first-floor event space and learning room for talks, seminars, performances or screenings inspired by the collection in addition, says Shearcroft, there will be ‘a space where people can assemble to have conversations about documents – a teaching space near to the original documents; somewhere that small groups of about 30 can sit around and do various activities. That’s a very different experience to going on your own.’ Phase 1 and 2, says Shearcroft, are ’about nurturing a conversation, which in turn increases interest in the original documents.’
Phase 3 is far more significant, but has been awaiting approval of funding. The proposal is to extend an existing lightwell to create a ‘hall of archives’: a four-storey-height space, which allows visitors to see into the storerooms and gain a sense of the enormous scale of the collection.
Says Shearcroft: ‘at the moment as a visitor you can’t see where original documents are stored. But we’re changing the building so that now every single visitor can come in and stand in this four-storey-height space to see the documents going off into the distance.’
Client: The national archives
Architecture and interior design: AOC
Construction: Turner Construction
Area: 7,300 sq m