The commission for the Sackler Galleries at the Royal Academy of Arts provided the practice with its first opportunity to work within a historical building. The project demonstrates how contemporary interventions can enhance the old by relying on the sensitive juxtaposition rather than historical pastiche. The key to unlocking the design solution was the rediscovery of the lightwell between Burlington House and the Victorian extension, into which a new lift and staircase were inserted. In the process redundant historical accretions were peeled away, revealing the garden facade of Burlington House for the first time in over a century. Cleaned and repaired, this elevation contrasts strikingly with the Victorian structure and the free-standing new insertions. The new work is demonstratively of its own time, using modern materials for modern ends, but it also enables a rediscovery of the potential of Burlington House and the Victorian galleries, much of which had become inaccessible over time.

Facts + Figures

  • Appointment: 1985
  • Completion: 1991