Forme UK completed the refurbishment of the "New Wing" of the Somerset House estate.
The scheme was part of the fourth and last phase of the renovation of the iconic Grade 1 listed buildings.
The redevelopment started 6 years ago and over the years saw the involvement of several consultants, all called up to bring to life the vision of the Trust.
Somerset House Trust
Civic Trust Award 2015
Grade I Listed Building
The design team spent significant energy in devising the inner hall lobby spaces of the East Wing. Many of them were subject to much needed structural alteration to meet the demands of the Trust, such as the removal of lifts and shaft walls. A new central hall of the east wings was created to enhance the visitor experience of the ground floor. Its soft curves and views through the elliptical voids offer a counterpoint to the experience of striding through the enfilade of door-ways in the adjacent galleries.
Apart from providing private and commercial space, Forme UK’s role in the redevelopment of the estate also contributes to London’s portfolio of public spaces.
Flowing in from the Strand, visitors are offered free access throughout all ground levels of three wings with visible access points from the famous Fountain Court - most commonly known for London Fashion Week and its popular ice rink in winter months. Particularly approachable is the East Wing, where the original layout of walls and doorways was retained to offer a seamless transition between the public arts realm of the Somerset House and the educational spaces of the neighboring King’s College.
Forme UK’s engagement in the project began in 2008 with the refurbishment and modernisation of the 3rd floor in the South Wing. After years of abandon, new workspaces were created from loft like rooms and corridors. This was all achieved with a modest budget.
When the Inland Revenue vacated the ground floor of the East wing and the entire West wing after 150 years of occupation, Forme UK and the design team were briefed to convert the spaces for new use.
As with the South Wing, improving circulation within the East Wing was the first challenge. A cluttered layout was quickly turned into a fluid ensemble of interconnecting galleries and commercial spaces. All the lightweight partitions installed in the 1960's together with other significant structural interventions were removed and the original wall features reinstated, so that the interior could return to its old glory.
This restoration unlocked the fee generating potential of the estate, while also restoring its authentic quality. The process required careful and extensive repairs. New timber floors, lighting and traditional materials were used to enhance the original fabric and mirror the aesthetics of the other wings, reflecting the Grade 1 listing of the estate.
Forme UK’s contribution has restored Somerset House’s natural ability to delight with exquisite visual experiences.
Bespoke chandeliers attract the gaze of visitors, guiding them through the building. The climax is reached in the West wing, where the last remaining William Chambers cantilevered stone central staircase was restored with the intention to enrich the experience of upward mobility for office users. Bespoke floating light fixtures were hung to the ceiling several floors above and the lightweight stone structure of the staircase was laid bare.
The full restoration of this iconic Grade 1 listed building is part of the Trust’s mission to conserve and restore Somerset House to the highest standards and strengthen its position as a world class historic site. The universally recognised centre for culture and the arts now co-exists within an entrepreneurial creative business environment.