Purcell and Jamie Fobert Architects' transformation and restoration of the National Portrait Gallery has opened to unanimous critical and public acclaim.
Inside, a sense of light, space and legibility has been flushed throughout the building, as if it’s undergone a supercharged spring clean, banishing much of the former gloom
— Oliver Wainwright, architecture critic, The Guardian
"The National Portrait Gallery in London has always felt like the poor cousin of the National Gallery, an afterthought tucked around the back of the star attraction. It stands as an awkward rear extension, squeezed into an unloved armpit where the sticky chaos of Leicester Square spills into Charing Cross Road, while visitors have always been shuffled through an apologetic side entrance, as if being invited in to collect the bins.
The reason it is so unwelcoming is that when the gallery was built in 1896 after its first years in temporary premises, it faced directly on to a slum – “a neighbourhood of crime and vice”, as architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner put it – and the insalubrious streets of Soho beyond. This regal repository of painted noblemen couldn’t be seen to be fronting on to such a seedy district, so the architect, Ewan Christian, moved the entrance as far around the corner as he could, to face the more seemly setting of St Martin-in-the-Fields church. As a result, the building’s front has always looked like its back, the palazzo-like facade of arched windows and roundels crucially missing a front door.
Read the full article in The Guardian here: