The Courtauld Institute of Art
The Courtauld Institute of Art is one of the world’s leading centres for the study of the history and conservation of art and architecture, and its gallery houses one of Britain’s best-loved collections.
The project is the most significant redevelopment of the Courtauld Institute of Art since its relocation to Somerset House in 1989, with the reopening of the gallery being just the first phase of its ambitious plans. Developed through extensive engagement with staff and students, and negotiated with heritage authorities, it aims to support the overall vision of The Courtauld by maximising the potential of the unique heritage site and create fit-for-purpose spaces integrating all of the elements of The Courtauld’s operation, meeting current needs and enabling future sustainability.
Originally constructed on the site of a Tudor Palace, Somerset House has served many tenants over its two centuries. The development of the building’s interior has been largely ad-hoc to accommodate its various uses, resulting in an eccentric layout with over 100 different floor levels. Many months of reimagining the space finally came to light when the Courtauld reopened its doors in November 2021.
“The opening of the Courtauld Gallery [was] a cultural highlight of 2021, bringing our unique collection back to public display. Thank you most sincerely for the expertise, dedication and achievements of Max Fordham in delivering the new Courtauld Gallery with such finesse." - Lord Browne of Madingley, Chairman of The Courtauld
With ambitions to create facilities that will allow students, academics, conservators, and curators to innovate and operate at the top of their fields, we worked alongside Witherford Watson Mann Architects to undertake significant repair and conservation work to the Grade I listed building.
Phase 1 of the overhaul of The Courtauld's facilities radically improved the facilities for collections storage, object movement, and conservation, created a new gallery for the prints and drawings collection, and provides a new and improved temporary exhibition space to meet increasing demand for the gallery’s distinctive programme.
The current home of The Courtauld was built before even central water and sanitation services were common in buildings, but now houses galleries required to meet current environmental control standards, as well as a range of workshops and other facilities. The task to realise this provision in the existing building - while delivering on the client and architectural ambitions in as sympathetic a way as possible - was extremely challenging. It required work on many fronts, from careful consideration of the strategies that were to be adopted, deciding how and where services distribution around the building was to be arranged, through to delivering the design on site.
"The quality of what has been produced is a huge testament to the skill and application of all involved in delivering it." - Colin Darlington, Senior Partner and Performance Spaces Leader at Max Fordham
The services are almost invisible in the gallery spaces and make use of heat recovery, efficient fans and intelligent controls to maximise efficiency and react to the building's use. The mechanical air conditioning system is designed to provide current international environmental control standards for artwork, while also fitting within the historic architecture of the building. This involved splitting down the air handling components to locate them into areas where they would fit, while still providing a comprehensive system.
Our acoustics input focussed on managing noise transfer between spaces and noise break-in from the variety of activities (including concerts, film screenings and ice skating) that occur in the Somerset House courtyard. We also provided acoustic modelling and audio simulations of the effect of reconfiguring the library and removing much of the books and shelving.
"After a two-year revamp, this extraordinary collection is back – in a brighter, roomier, friendlier space. The Old Masters have never looked so magnificent!" - The Guardian