London’s Instituto Cervantes has been remodeled by Binom Architects after its recent move from Eaton Square, Belgravia to Devereux Court, off the Strand. Its new home is within a Neo-Georgian building dating from 1951-53 and originally designed by Walker Harwood and Cranswick. Binom have introduced new features including an entrance lobby, reception, library, event space and archive housed in a sequence of interconnected spaces separated by screens. Varying in size, materials, permeability and function, the screens are key drivers of the new internal design of the building.
A double-height library - the focal point of the Institute - serves as an event space. A distinctive staircase introduces a sense of movement into the space, its eye-catching profile accentuating the sense of moving up and down between different levels. At the upper mezzanine level of the library, a layered steel, timber and acrylic balustrade animates an otherwise serene white room where the emphasis is on timeless high-quality materials and simple finishes including white-washed birch and smoked oak veneer.
Binom's objective has been to create a welcoming space at the heart of the Institute conducive to both research and events including talks and receptions. Throughout, the interior of the Institute has been imbued with the quality of a public space and with a sense of institutional gravitas and longevity without feeling either heavy or oppressive. Natural light ensures that the Institute comes to life as an interior as do the plentiful views from one room to another and the vistas from existing windows. The building programme also comprises 14 classrooms and associated administrative spaces.
Gonzalo Coello de Portugal of Binom Architects describes some of the narratives at play on the project, “The motive of the red stripe of acrylic reappears in a subtle way in the stair balustrade, screens to the classes, and thin layers at the front of the reception and library desks. It binds the spaces together. We also wanted to move away from the solid doors that previously hid what was going on in the building. So instead we have exposed the activity in the library and some of the classes by substituting a number of the existing partitions with screens in glass and white-washed plywood. Again, this adds to a sense of fluidity and interconnectedness that we were after.”