Purcell has been working continuously at the National Gallery, London, for over 30 years. During this time, we have undertaken a wide range of projects including the creation and refurbishment of galleries, the fit-out of commercial facilities including hospitality and retail spaces, and the redesign of support spaces and staff workplaces.

In 2018, this experience and in-depth knowledge of the operations and needs of the institution was consolidated into a masterplan in which we worked with the National Gallery to assess the development potential of the Estate.

The basis of the commission was to identify and analyse the issues the Gallery is currently dealing with, and build a spatial brief informed by the key aspiration of defining the kind of museum the Gallery will be in the 21st century - more open, more ambitious, more dynamic and more connected.

The masterplan focusses on the Gallery’s ‘Top 10 Needs’ of continuing to develop and expand the collection, providing a world-class visitor experience, additional temporary and permanent gallery space, expanded research facilities, digital initiatives, improved back-of-house spaces, optimising use of existing buildings alongside new interventions, improving financial resilience and exploiting adjacencies with the public realm, notably Trafalgar and Leicester Squares.

The first part of the study explores the existing buildings that make up the National Gallery Estate. It considers the heritage significance of the Grade I-Listed buildings and their capacity for change, and highlights the current spatial and visitor experience issues, using a combination of first-hand research and precedents, both national and international, of similar organisations and buildings.

Simultaneously, Purcell worked alongside consultants to assess structural, MEP and infrastructure issues, as well as planning and cost consultants. Visitor numbers and flows were also assessed, both inside the buildings to identify ‘hot-spots’ and areas of congestion, and within the wider city, looking at transport issues, likely arrival points and visitor desire lines within the locale.

This research leads into a series of diagrams that identify the current issues and challenges of the existing buildings, versus what the Gallery requires to meet its future ambitions.

Based on this, the masterplan then assembles a range of ‘Development Models’ with varying degrees of commercial and gallery use, and refurbishment versus new-build elements. This informs the National Gallery of the various approaches available and the extent to which each realises some or all of the vision and objectives – the ‘Top 10 Needs’.

The key output of the masterplan is a ‘Development Study Matrix’ that summarises the study at a high level. It considers in an objective manner the extent to which each ‘Development Model’ addresses the Gallery’s ‘Top 10 Needs’ and includes a number of metrics to inform Gallery decision-making.

The masterplan is an exploration of the art of the possible, identifying and explores a series of approaches which express an order of magnitude in terms of cost and intervention and their relative benefits to Gallery operations. It is currently being developed further with trustees, where opportunities to bring individual elements forward are being explored. It is a key document, guiding the decision-making process and defining the exciting future of this well-loved and popular landmark destination.