It’s excellent to hear today that Wellcome Collection is launching a ’17.5 million development project to increase the capacity of its Euston Road premises.
The Wellcome Collection is one of London’s most innovative and engaging public spaces, so it’s excellent to hear today that it is launching a £17.5 million development project to increase the capacity of its Euston Road premises.
The first exhibition I attended at the Wellcome Collection was the wonderfully named ‘High Society’, exploring human beings’ use of and attitudes towards drugs throughout the centuries. It was visually punchy and thought-provoking, and I came away with my curiosity about subject thoroughly piqued.
I have returned many times since, and am clearly not alone in finding the quirky and interactive nature of the exhibits quite addictive: this year saw Wellcome’s most popular ever exhibition, the fascinating Brains, which brought a 20 per cent increase in footfall. Over the last year, almost half a million visitors have wandered into the Wellcome’s spacious and light-flooded lobby on the Euston Road, a number which is bound to put some strain on premises originally designed to accommodate 100,000 visits per year. The development, therefore, is timely.
Stirling Prize winning architects Wilkinson Eyre have been brought in to bring about various transformations of the space. A new thematic gallery will be the setting for a range of semi-permanent displays, and the Reading Room – currently somewhat overlooked due to being tucked away on the first floor – will be converted into a new public space in which, according to Simon Chaplin, Head of the Wellcome Library, visitors will form a ‘new community bound by their interest in creating and sharing ideas’.
A youth events studio will also offer activity space for 14-19 year olds to produce work that will contribute to the Wellcome programme.
In all, the development project, which will commence next summer and conclude in the summer of 2014, will open up 30 per cent more gallery space and double the capacity for public events.
Keen not to completely disappear from the public eye during the works, the Wellcome Collection will remain open, albeit to a reduced extent. There are plans to make more of the outside of the building while the interior is overhauled, with attractive displays enlivening the rather dull Euston Road.
This can only work in Wellcome’s favour: if their exterior displays are as colourful and intriguing as their exhibits, the queues for the first exhibit in the renovated building will stretch all the way to King’s Cross.
<em>Read more by Mark Nayler