Building study: Learning from Denise Scott Brown

Selldorf says the proposals would bring more light to the Sainsbury Wing entrance and make it easier for visitors to navigate

Source: Selldorf, 2022

As Selldorf Architects unveils £30m proposals to reconfigure the National Gallery and Venturi Scott Brown’s landmark Sainsbury Wing, Elizabeth Hopkirk meets the women leading the project

When New York’s Selldorf Architects beat a shortlist of mainly British talent in last year’s high-profile competition to reconfigure the National Gallery, it would be fair to say it raised a few eyebrows. The practice, led by Annabelle Selldorf, was up against Stirling Prize-winning locals David Chipperfield, Caruso St John and Witherford Watson Mann for the prestigious job of remodelling the “Temple of the Arts” in time for its 200th anniversary in 2024.

It’s a tight timeframe and for the gallery’s project lead, Sarah Younger, the concern was whether a US architect would be able to get to meetings given the ever-changing covid travel restrictions. As it transpired, Selldorf has been able to fly in every month for a few days at a time. She also personally attends all the online meetings. “We are getting that incredibly personal attention,” says Younger with relief.

During her most recent visit, Selldorf showed Building Design round the 1991 Sainsbury Wing to outline her proposals ahead of the NG200 public consultation. It is this part of the project that will be most contentious, rather than the alterations to the main 1838 William Wilkins building, because of its legendary place in British architectural history.

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