Fobert and Purcell win £35.5m National Portrait Gallery transformation

London’s National Portrait Gallery has appointed architecture firms Jamie Fobert and Purcell to deliver the British institution’s £35.5m (US$50.2m, €40.2m) transformation.

Called ‘Inspiring People: Transforming our National Portrait Gallery,’ the plans from the London-based practices mark the largest ever development for the Victorian-era National Portrait Gallery since it opened in 1896.

The decision follows an international selection process to find the best candidates, with Jamie Fobert – who recently celebrated the opening of the £20m (US$28.3m, €22.7m) Tate St Ives redevelopment in Cornwall – leading the design process. The architects will work in conjunction with heritage experts Purcell, also working with engineers Max Fordham and Price & Myers on the plans.

“We were impressed by Jamie Fobert’s evident love of the gallery, its collection and building, and the clear vision he had for how to make the most of these for our visitors, as well as his affinity with art and artists,” said National Portrait Gallery director Dr Nicholas Cullinan.

“Following his much lauded work at Tate St Ives, and forthcoming projects such as Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge, this is the perfect time to work with Jamie as we take the National Portrait Gallery into one of the most exciting chapters in its history.”

Scheduled to start in 2020, the plans include an increase in exhibition space by 20 per cent, an enhancement of the entrance area and public spaces, and the creation of a state-of-the-art learning centre. For the first time in its history, the gallery will also undergo a complete rehang of its works, which will be accompanied by a programme of activities taking place across Britain.

“Housed in a handsome Victorian building, the National Portrait Gallery plays a unique and important role in the cultural life of our nation, charting our past and engaging with the present,” said Jamie Fobert Architects director Jamie Fobert. “This project will unify the collection and enhance the gallery’s presence in the city. I am looking forward to working together with the National Portrait Gallery’s dynamic team and our partners.”

The project is currently 60 per cent funded, with £21.2m (US$30m, €24m) raised so far, £9.4m (US$13.3m, €10.6m) of that coming from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). Gallery officials are aiming to secure full financing by March next year, to meet a scheduled completion date of 2022.