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The National Portrait Gallery occupies a Grade I listed building dating from 1896, built specifically to create a permanent home for the nation’s collection of portraits. The Gallery in St Martin’s Place, London closed in spring 2020 to invoke the Inspiring People project, a major renovation led by Jamie Fobert Architects and Purcell, which took place over the following three years. The ambition was to realign the 19th-century building with the visions of its original architect, Ewan Christian. The renovation included reconfigurations that also delivered an increase in public space through the introduction of a new entrance and the opening-up of previously concealed areas.
Gilbert Ash was appointed as main contractor for delivering the Inspiring People project, overseeing the transformation of the Blavatnik and Weston Wings of the Gallery, which are part of the original building, and the works required to create the new Ross Place entrance and forecourt on the North Façade.
Artisan Plastercraft was initially asked to provide a site survey to establish the condition and integrity of lime plaster to masonry and lath and plaster contained within the cove detail areas of the ceilings. Under the auspices of Artisan Painting & Decorating, we were also able to offer recommendations regarding areas of failing painted surfaces.
As well as subsequently delivering the masonry lime plaster and lath and plaster ceiling repairs identified in our survey, we were also able to execute a package of fibrous plasterworks which included the replication of several enriched cornice mouldings of various designs and sizes, and three types of plain-run cornice, totalling approximately 350 linear metres.
Other works we completed included new fibrous plaster beam cases for the ground floor grand entrance, learning centre and Gallery 41 and 42. These were also match-to-existing designs, requiring site squeezes and mould creation to replicate what went before. On the first and second floors, repairs were made to decorative mouldings and service holes in the fibrous plaster ceilings.
The Gallery reopened in the summer of 2023 following its £28 million refurbishment. It is the largest renovation to have taken place at the National Portrait Gallery since it opened in 1896. Previous renovations were carried out in the 1930s and in the early 2000s. Read more about the finished project on Dezeen.