Hugh Broughton Architects : The architects has completed a new gallery on the Welbeck Estate in Nottinghamshire. The new gallery, which officially opened to the public on 20 March 2016, showcases changing displays of the historic Portland Collection, one of the finest accumulations of paintings, sculpture, books, tapestries and furniture in private hands in Britain. The collection includes Michelangelo’s rarely seen Madonna del Silenzio (c.1538) and the pearl earring worn by Charles I at his execution in 1649 – and many of the works have not been on public display until now.
The new 890 square metre gallery is set within the grounds of the existing Harley Gallery. Its design complements the heritage of the site and the historic interiors in the state rooms of Welbeck Abbey, whilst enhancing the visitor experience. The project was won through an invited competition organised by Malcolm Reading Consultants in 2012.
The new gallery is housed within the walls of the Tan Gallop, a redundant structure, which was previously used for training racehorses. Externally, elevations have been crisply detailed in handmade Danish brick, which contrasts with and complements original stone walls. Protruding barrel-vaulted zinc roofs provide a dynamic roofline, evoking silhouettes of the Abbey and hinting at the drama within.
Visitors arrive via a courtyard, which the new gallery shares with The Harley Gallery, The HarleyCafé and Welbeck Farm Shop. A glazed entrance pavilion provides a light and airy threshold with clear views on to a line of trees and a 19th century lodge, now offices. Within the entry pavilion, the original stone walls of the Gallop have been exposed to view. A limestone-cladreception desk sits in front of three full height windows with views to a mature landscape to the north. Top-lit stairs treated with contemporary white walls lead down to other facilities including public toilets, staff areas and lockers contained within a basement.
The Portland Collection has been assembled by the Cavendish-Bentinck family, who have lived at Welbeck for over 400 years. The new gallery is part of The Harley Foundation, which was set up in 1977 by the late Duchess of Portland to encourage creativity and to support the visual arts.
The galleries have been designed as a place of delight and surprise, reflecting the historic architecture of the Welbeck Estate through their materiality, changing scales, colour and texture. The architectural concept creates a structure for John Ronayne’s exhibition design and allows placement of The Portland Collection at centre stage, whilst also celebrating light, space and volume.
The first gallery that visitors enter is the 22m Long Gallery with a cycloidal fibrous plaster ceiling set under a barrel vault roof, seemingly cut in half by a full length translucent rooflight, filling the space with diffuse light and creating the perfect environment to display oil-painted portraits. At the far end a doorway leads to a vitrine of gold and silver, creating an alluring termination to views. From this enclosed space visitors emerge into a larger, more flexible Treasury Gallery, which is sub-divided into three zones. Two areas are lit by north lights and one features low ceilings and controlled lighting for the display of miniatures and light sensitive objects.
The inaugural displays will include miniature portraits selected by Sir Peter Blake, showingfrom the opening date of 20th March to 18 September 2016.
Hugh Broughton, Director Hugh Broughton Architects said: “Welbeck has an extraordinary architectural heritage and we are honoured to have been given the opportunity to add to this with the new gallery for The Portland Collection. The building is the product of an extraordinarily creative collaboration with our client, William Parente, and reflects our mutual interests in combining light, volume, colour and texture to produce architecture which is contextual, enduring and engaging for visitors.”
William Parente, grandson of the 7th Duke of Portland, said: “Hugh Broughton, who many people will know for his extraordinary sci-fi British Antarctic Survey station (it ‘walks’ over a moving glacier as required) has managed to combine that visionary enterprise with a close study of existing buildings at Welbeck. So the toplit Long Gallery recalls some of the 5th Duke’s underground spaces, while the entrance pavilion marries the lightness of glass and steel to the brute power of the original 19th century walls. And his use of handmade bricks is entirely in keeping with the artisan traditions of Welbeck and The Harley Foundation, while he has followed Welbeck’s emphasis on sustainability with a sophisticated climate control system based around air source energy. Hugh has created a beautiful and functional building, and it has been great fun working with him.”