Courtauld Connects Phase I: Restoring The Courtauld Institute of Art

Our Special Projects and McAlpine Design Group teams bring about Courtauld Connects Phase I at the Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House in London.

We are so proud to have been part of the team delivering Courtauld Connects at The Courtauld Institute of Art in London, which has  been voted the winner of the 2023 Peoples’ Poll on the RIBA Stirling Prize.

The Courtauld Connects transformation of The Courtauld Institute of Art, situated in the North Block of Somerset House in central London has been the most significant modernisation project in its history, providing a transformed home for one of the UK’s greatest art collections.

Phase I has delivered improved gallery space and educational facilities, with a focus on maximising the feeling of space, and making it accessible for all.

Maximising the building’s footprint in ways that are sympathetic to the building’s fabric has been key to the team’s approach: a new temporary exhibition space has been created in former attic and office spaces, and what a former painting store has been remodelled into additional gallery space. The creation of a new lift and step-free access to the entrance, standardised floor levels and new visitor welcome areas make The Courtauld Gallery more accessible than ever before. 

The re-instatement of the Great Room, which was previously subdivided into four smaller rooms, has been restored to its original proportions to showcase the Gallery’s world-class collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces. The project also saw the elegant restoration of the Blavatnik Fine Rooms on the second floor with new door openings, floors, lighting and environmental controls.  The basement was also redesigned to create a new Shop.

Our work on this Grade I listed building included carefully altering, conserving and reservicing the traditional stone and masonry constructed property. Our specialist supply chain allowed us to effectively deliver the breadth of works to a scheme that involved:

  • Working with traditional materials including historic lime plaster repairs
  • Fine art conservation of listed permanent decorative features
  • Substantial and complex temporary works and structural alterations
  • Weaving in new services into the listed structure.

Project summary

    • Client: The Courtauld Institute of Art
    • Sector: Heritage
    • Location: London
    • Services: Special Projects, Construction Management
    • Completion date: June 2021

RIBA Stirling Prize: Courtauld Connects, The Courtauld Institute of Art

Stakeholder management

We were required to keep the main vestibule gateway, the only access route from the Strand for Somerset House Trust events, open throughout the project. Our team worked with McAlpine Design Group to validate and deliver a safe and cost-effective scheme for a temporary bridge that could accept a loaded fire appliance and large articulated service vehicles while we carefully remodelled the vaults at lower ground level to create useable space for the gallery.

The support structures at lower ground level for the vestibule connecting the public from the Strand entrance to Somerset House had to be cut. A temporary bridge was installed in the vaults underneath the vestibule to carry all thoroughfare from the Strand to Somerset House courtyard. The self-compacting concrete was cast in-situ between the temporary support structures in a single pour to create a permanent solution. A new access stair to the basement was constructed out of cantilevered stone, connecting the vestibule to the new vaults and improving visitor flow. We also aided Somerset House Trust by undertaking the logistics management of the 2019 Skate delivery.

Our team worked alongside the landlord (Somerset House Trust) and The Courtauld Institute’s staff to maintain the functionality of spaces which remained open throughout the process. And when we unexpectedly discovered Saxon remains underneath the North Wing vaults, we managed the programme implications swiftly and efficiently, diverting works to other areas of the project while the remains were excavated – keeping costs low and the programme on-track.

We are writing to thank you most sincerely for the expertise, dedication and achievements of Sir Robert McAlpine in delivering the new Courtauld Gallery with such finesse. The wonderful reviews have almost all been 5-star, which is a testament to the sustained effort and perfectionism of all involved […].

Lord Browne of Madingley and Dr Deborah Swallow Chairman of The Courtauld Institute of Art and Märit Rausing Director of The Courtauld Institute of Art until August 2023

Heritage and Special Projects

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