The Portland Collection
Hugh Broughton Architects has completed a new gallery on the Welbeck Estate in Nottinghamshire.
The new 890 square metre gallery is set within the grounds of the existing Harley Gallery. Its design complements the heritage of the site and the historic interiors in the state rooms of Welbeck Abbey, whilst enhancing the visitor experience. The project was won through an invited competition organised by Malcolm Reading Consultants in 2012.
The new gallery is housed within the walls of the Tan Gallop, a redundant structure, which was previously used for training racehorses. Externally, elevations have been crisply detailed in handmade Danish brick, which contrasts with and complements original stone walls. Protruding barrel-vaulted zinc roofs provide a dynamic roofline, evoking silhouettes of the Abbey and hinting at the drama within.
Visitors arrive via a courtyard, which the new gallery shares with The Harley Gallery, The Harley Café and Welbeck Farm Shop. A glazed entrance pavilion provides a light and airy threshold with clear views on to a line of trees and a 19th century lodge, now offices. Within the entry pavilion, the original stone walls of the Gallop have been exposed to view. A limestone-clad reception desk sits in front of three full height windows with views to a mature landscape to the north. Top-lit stairs treated with contemporary white walls lead down to other facilities including public toilets, staff areas and lockers contained within a basement.
The Portland Collection has been assembled by the Cavendish-Bentinck family, who have lived at Welbeck for over 400 years. The new gallery is part of The Harley Foundation, which was set up in 1977 by the late Duchess of Portland to encourage creativity and to support the visual arts.
The galleries have been designed as a place of delight and surprise, reflecting the historic architecture of the Welbeck Estate through their materiality, changing scales, colour and texture. The architectural concept creates a structure for John Ronayne’s exhibition design and allows placement of The Portland Collection at centre stage, whilst also celebrating light, space and volume.
The first gallery that visitors enter is the 22m Long Gallery with a cycloidal fibrous plaster ceiling set under a barrel vault roof, seemingly cut in half by a full length translucent rooflight, filling the space with diffuse light and creating the perfect environment to display oil-painted portraits. At the far end a doorway leads to a vitrine of gold and silver, creating an alluring termination to views. From this enclosed space visitors emerge into a larger, more flexible Treasury Gallery, which is sub-divided into three zones. Two areas are lit by north lights and one features low ceilings and controlled lighting for the display of miniatures and light sensitive objects.