UCL Art Galleries – University College London

UCL Art Galleries, University College London Euston, English Higher Education Building

UCL Art Galleries

Octagon + Flaxman, Euston Building, London – design by Burwell Deakins Architects

28 Nov 2012

UCL Art Galleries

Euston, London, England

Design: Burwell Deakins Architects

UCL unveils Burwell Deakins-designed galleries

Burwell Deakins Architects has completed the transformation of the historic Octagon and Flaxman galleries at University College London (UCL), showcasing never displayed before objects from the University’s collection to staff, students and the general public.

UCL Galleries London UCL Galleries London
photos : Edmund Sumner

At the heart of the project, is the bold positioning of John Flaxman’s plaster study St Michael Overcoming Satan. Burwell Deakins Architects has addressed the challenges of retaining the statue and opening of the preexisting, but latterly closed oculus with a new installation that inserts a structural glass plinth over the reopened aperture.

Solving a long-standing spatial challenge, the configuration of this centerpiece creates views between the Flaxman Gallery located on the first floor and the Octagon Gallery on the floor directly below, whilst also creating the opportunity to suspend the statue of St Michael in its original position whilst opening the oculus.

The publically-accessible Octagon Gallery houses a new exhibition space, with state-of-the-art cases and interactive displays to showcase treasures from the University’s collection. The structure of the these new cases corresponds to the shapes of the plaster reliefs set into the wall in the Flaxman Gallery above, which are now visible through the glazed oculus.

The Octagon’s first exhibition, Model Translations, is of objects – some never displayed before – from the collections. The items come from art, anthropology, archaeology, engineering, pathology and zoology collections and record encounters and explorations between scholars and the natural and made environment. An official reopening ceremony for the galleries will be held on 27th November.

UCL Galleries London UCL Galleries London
photos : Edmund Sumner

William Deakins, Director at Burwell Deakins Architects, said: “It’s extremely satisfying to see such prominent areas of the university being brought back to life, reaffirming the galleries as the cultural heart of the university. By visually linking the two galleries, it has animated both spaces whilst also helping visitors orientate themselves in the building.

“Having worked on several projects throughout the campus, it’s remarkable to see the accumulative effect of the changes that have been made and I’m particularly looking forward to seeing the relationship between the two galleries evolve over time.”

Sally MacDonald, Director, Museums and Public Engagement at UCL: “The Octagon Gallery will showcase collections that many students probably wouldn’t be aware of otherwise. We hope that this bright and surprising space, which thousands of students will pass through every day on their way into the main library, will help spark new ideas about cross disciplinary working.

“In the future we will be holding competitions to choose new themes for exhibitions with research students able to submit entries. The challenging, experimental atmosphere of the galleries reflects UCL’s values and atmosphere.”

Burwell Deakins Architects have delivered numerous projects at UCL, including the complete refurbishment of the history of art department and the redesign of the entrance to the Wilkins Library, which connects to both the Octagon and Flaxman galleries.

Octagon and Flaxman galleries UCL images / information from Burwell Deakins Architects

Location: Wilkins Building, University College London, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT


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