Bigger, Bolder, Braver: Wellcome Collection opens new spaces after £17.5million development
26 February 2015
Wellcome Collection, the destination for the incurably curious, has opened new galleries and spaces following a major expansion of the venue by Stirling Prize winning architects Wilkinson Eyre. The £17.5m development has delivered a bigger and bolder Wellcome Collection, bringing more areas of the building into public use, creating a new gallery for thematic exhibitions and doubling the capacity for public events. A dramatic new spiral staircase links three levels of public spaces and moving up through the building, each floor offers a greater depth of engagement with the venue's programme and collections.
The expansion, which began in 2013, responds to overwhelming demand for Wellcome Collection’s interdisciplinary programme, which explores the connections between medicine, life and art. The venue’s most popular exhibition, 'Death: A Self-portrait', saw over 1500 visitors a day throughout its run, and talks and events are routinely booked out. Its current exhibition 'The Institute of Sexology' is heavily over-subscribed. Wellcome Collection was originally designed for 100,000 yearly visits, but before development works began the venue welcomed more than 550,000 people a year to its critically acclaimed programme and spaces and the Wellcome Library.
The development opens up 40% more gallery space and the extended programme has been modelled to encourage deeper engagement with the venue’s collections and content. A new thematic gallery hosts exhibitions over a year-long period, with a mixture of semi-permanent displays and exhibits that will be developed during the run of a show. The first of these longer exhibitions, 'The Institute of Sexology', open now, explores the history of the study of sex. The ground floor temporary exhibition gallery reopens with ‘Forensics: The anatomy of crime’ - the first time that two major temporary exhibitions will run simultaneously at the venue.
The Wellcome Library’s Reading Room has been transformed into an innovative social space, a hybrid of gallery, library and event space sitting at the heart of the building and forming a bridge between the research Library and the public galleries. The space contains a curated and permanent collection of artworks, items from Henry Wellcome’s own collection, handling objects, books and reproductions of rare manuscripts. The display opens Wellcome Library’s extraordinarily rich collections to new audiences and offers an open invitation to visitors to indulge their curiosity and explore what it means to be human. The research Library has also been expanded, offering scholars and readers an outstanding environment for study, with a larger rare materials room and new spaces for desks and open-access shelving.
The Reading Room will also host live events, complementing the programme of activities, talks and discussions that take place in Wellcome Collection’s forum and auditorium. A dedicated youth Studio now offers a flexible workshop and display space for Youth Programme activities and projects.
Further up the building, The Hub at Wellcome Collection, a new space for interdisciplinary research, will catalyse research and public engagement collaborations between bright minds across specialisms, with grants being made available for group residencies. The first residents, the Hubbub group, are leading an exploration of rest and its opposites.
Wellcome Café on the ground floor is joined by a new restaurant, Wellcome Kitchen, at the top of the new stair. The restaurant offers full waiter table service daily for morning coffee, lunch and afternoon tea and dinner on Thursday evenings.
Clare Matterson, Director of Strategy at the Wellcome Trust says: “Since opening Wellcome Collection seven years ago we’ve been thrilled time and again by the extraordinary public response to our cultural explorations of science, history, art and health. Our beautiful helical stair breathes new life into our building by transporting visitors to expanded galleries and spaces where we will take every opportunity to experiment with new ideas and activities and add to the rich legacy of Sir Henry Wellcome’s curious intellect, research and collections.”
Ken Arnold, Head of Public Programmes at Wellcome Collection, says: “Just as our spectacular new stairs offer different glimpses of our exhibitions and collections from almost every tread, so Wellcome Collection’s new, larger incarnation marks Wellcome Collection out as a space where curious minds can find even more diverse, fresh and often unexpected perspectives on what makes us human. We hope that our new exhibition, gallery and programming formats reward and inspire our ever growing numbers of visitors.”
Simon Chaplin, Director of Culture and Society at the Wellcome Trust, says: “In its new incarnation Wellcome Collection has blurred the boundaries between exhibitions space, events venue and library. Our collections explore health across every period of human culture, from every part of the world - from medieval scrolls to MRI scans. Our exciting new spaces will encourage our visitors to discover the depth and breadth of the rich resources we hold, and to share their discoveries with others. ”
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NOTES TO EDITORS
Wellcome Collection opened on 21 June 2007 as the free visitor destination for the incurably curious. Located at 183 Euston Road, London, venue explores the connections between medicine, life and art. The building comprises a range of gallery, research and studio spaces, a public events programme, the Wellcome Library, a café, restaurant, bookshop, and a wide range of event spaces for hire.
Part of Wellcome Collection, the Wellcome Library provides insight and information to anyone seeking to understand medicine and its role in society, past and present. We are one of the world’s major resources for the study of medical history and we also provide access to a growing collection of contemporary biomedical information resources relating to consumer health, popular science, biomedical ethics and the public understanding of science. More than 40 000 readers visited last year, including historians, academics, students, health professionals, consumers, journalists, artists and members of the general public.
Wellcome Collection is part of the Wellcome Trust. Established under Sir Henry’s Wellcome’s will in 1936, the Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to improving health. We provide more than £700 million a year to support bright minds in science, the humanities and the social sciences, as well as education, public engagement and the application of research to medicine.
Wilkinson Eyre Architects is one of the UK’s leading architecture practices, with a portfolio of national and international award-winning projects. Its designs are widely recognised and have received extensive acclaim including the back-to-back success in the RIBA Stirling Prize for Architecture, for the Magna Project in 2001 and the Gateshead Millennium Bridge in 2002. The practice’s work is based on an informed use of technology and materials and combines a commitment to the innovation with an awareness of context to deliver high quality architectural design with a strong identity.
The main contractor for the development was Overbury plc.