National Gallery

National Gallery seeks ‘exceptional design talent’ to reimagine spaces ahead of 2024 bicentenary

Image: © National Gallery, London

The National Gallery has today revealed ambitious plans to mark its 200th anniversary in 2024, with several major capital projects at the centre of a scheme to meet the “changing expectations and needs” of visitors.

Central to the bicentenary festivities will be a programme of exhibitions and global outreach, all taking place under the NG200 umbrella. These events will coincide with the completion of an initial phase of works to the venue’s Trafalgar Square buildings.

In order to improve the overall visitor experience and ensure the site is fit for 21st century audiences, the National Gallery is now seeking design proposals for a project that mandates “sensitive interventions” to areas including the Grade I listed Sainsbury Wing and the creation of “healthy, sustainable, and accessible spaces”.

A reconfiguration of the ground floor entrance and upgrades to visitor amenities are also high on the list of priorities for the redevelopment.

The Sainsbury Wing exterior © The National Gallery, London

“We are looking for a team that can demonstrate exceptional design talent and creative flair. Sensitivity to the heritage of the existing building and its context will be crucial as will the ability to design and deliver complex projects working in collaboration with the client and wider team,” states Paul Gray, National Gallery’s chief operating officer, who is leading the selection process.

“Most importantly,” he adds, “we want to identify people and organisations that excite and inspire us and can open our eyes to the potential of the spaces within the Sainsbury Wing and the public realm.”

How will a design team be chosen?

The selection of a design team will take place in two stages.

The first is an open, international call for architect-led, multi-disciplinary design teams to register their interest and demonstrate the relevant skills and experience.

A shortlist of up to five teams will then be asked to submit details of their approach to the design and delivery of the project and will be interviewed by a selection panel. No design work is being asked for and some expenses will be paid to the shortlisted teams.

An appointment is expected to be made in July 2021.

Further, a new Research Centre will be established – likely to be housed in the Wilkins Building – to support the aim of becoming a world leading institution for research into historic painting.

The public areas immediately outside the Sainsbury Wing and straddling the northern edge of Trafalgar Square will also fall within the successful design team’s remit, as the National Gallery seeks to improve the presence of the complex nestled in one of the world’s most iconic settings.

The institution’s director, Dr Gabriele Finaldi, says the infrastructure refresh has been motivated by the “dual challenge of a huge increase in visitor numbers and the changing expectations and needs of those visitors over the last 30 years, means we do need to look again at the spaces we have, and in particular the ground floor entrances and amenities”.