The Photographers' Gallery: Ground Floor
The Photographers’ Gallery, London (UK)

Breaking down the physical and perceived barriers between the art institution and its surrounding public space
Rethinking the gallery's ground floor was part of a larger effort to transform the streets surrounding the gallery into a vibrant cultural hub, known as the Soho Photography Quarter. The public space project created a large scale opportunity for the gallery to engage with a wider audience in what Brett Roger’s (former gallery director) colloquially called ‘the Gallery’s Turbine Hall’ . By changing the ground floor the goal was to increase the footfall into the gallery breaking down physical and perceived barriers that had previously kept some members of the public from entering the building.  

The ground floor of the gallery building by O'Donnell + Tuomey completed in 2012, required a few strategic interventions to support this change while still maintaining design integrity. To create a more welcoming and flexible entrance to the gallery, the entrance was relocated to a central location on the ground floor, separate from the reception desk. The new entrance leads visitors to a central orientation space, where they can plan their visit and explore the various offerings of the building, which includes a cafe, book shop, print shop, and exhibition spaces. The welcome desk area now serves as a platform to effectively communicate the gallery's offerings to visitors and encourage them to explore the exhibitions on the upper floors.
The entrance was enlarged and made fully accessible, while security measures were increased. A large glass panel has been installed, which not only provides ample natural light to the welcome area but also creates visual connections to the public space. The cafe's previous tinted fixed windows have been replaced with new ones that can be easily slid aside. This design feature enhances the sensory experience of the cafe, providing a visual and spatial connection between the cafe space and the public realm.

Location: The Photographers’ Gallery, London (UK)
Year: 2021-22 
Client: The Photographers‘ Gallery
Team: Andreas Lechthaler, Sebastian Koepf, Andrea Boito, Alcina Lo, Barbara Wagner-Rainbird
Image credits: ALA/Klaud, Leo Cinicolo/The Photographers’ Gallery. Artworks shown in images by: Heather Agyepong, Jessica Bernard, Ollie Gapper, Mariam Sholaja, RAKE Collective, Wing Ka Ho Jimmi, Christian Thompson.