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For the incurably curious

by Suzanne Miao on Sep 14, 2015 in Architecture
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The 17.5 metric tonne steel staircase transports visitors to expanded galleries
and space. Photography: © Wellcome Trust

The 17.5 metric tonne steel staircase transports visitors to expanded galleries and space. Photography: © Wellcome Trust

As visitor numbers continue to grow, WilkinsonEyre has completed a £17.5 million transformation of Wellcome Collection in London, designed to enrich the visitor experience

Describing itself as a destination for "the incurably curious", London's Wellcome Collection opened in June 2007, exploring 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. "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," says Clare Matterson, director of strategy at the Wellcome Trust.

The inside faces of the new staircase were sprayed with a cold zinc and hot stainless steel solution, which was hand-polished by one solitary individual. Photography: © Edmund Sumner; courtesy of WilkinsonEyre Architects

The inside faces of the new staircase were sprayed with a cold zinc and hot stainless steel solution, which was hand-polished by one solitary individual. Photography: © Wellcome Trust

Originally predicted to receive visitor numbers of around 100,000 a year, that figure soared to more than 550,000 people a year by 2013, the year in which development works began. In response to this, WilkinsonEyre's intervention has reorganised the building in order to enrich the visitor experience and improve footfall through all publicly accessible floors.

The undoubted eye-catcher of the new look is the dynamic new steel staircase, introduced to enhance circulation and entice visitors up to the expanded first floor gallery spaces and destination restaurant on the second floor. "The real tour de force is the new dynamic stair, which uses steel sculpted into a flowing, swirling form to entice the eye and to draw people up through the building,'' notes Jim Eyre, director at WilkinsonEyre.

The destination restaurant on the second floor is accessed via the dynamic new steel staircase, introduced to enhance circulation and entice visitors up to the expanded first floor gallery spaces. Photography: © Edmund Sumner; courtesy of WilkinsonEyre Architects

The destination The destination restaurant on the second floor is accessed via the dynamic new steel staircase, introduced to enhance circulation and entice visitors up to the expanded first floor gallery spaces. Photography: © Edmund Sumner; courtesy of WilkinsonEyre

The 17.5 metric tonne steel structure is shot-blasted on the outside, while the inside faces, which are closer to the public, were sprayed with a cold zinc and hot stainless steel solution that was hand-polished by one solitary individual. "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," adds Matterson.

This is an excerpt from the "Broadcasting Loud & Clear” article from the September 2015 issue of Perspective magazine.

To continue reading, get your copy of Perspective.

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