The Sir John Soane’s museum in the summer of 2012 completed the first phase of the Opening up the Soane (OUTS) project. The overall aim of the OUTS was to improve visitor facilities and access to the museum. The museum’s popularity is unquestionable. For a museum space which too it’s credit is unusual, the increasing footfall within such a restricted building has put strain on the structure, the collections, staff and most importantly visitors.

When embarking upon public building projects, such as the OUTS there are three main considerations; the collections, building and the people who use, live with and have an invested interest in the building whether that be financial or emotional. For the success of any project all parties involved in the management, design and construction of the project should have a comprehensive understanding of all three. Without an understanding of all three, the project on completion will fail to connect with the building and surroundings and will not be able to grow organically as the building enters a new stage in its journey.

The Sir John Soanes Collections

The Sir John Soanes Collections

The construction industry which specialises within these projects has a unique perspective. Coming in at the latter end of the project’s thought process but embarking at the first stages of construction. It is the construction company’s desire to gain a full and complete understanding of the project and the aims and ambitions of the parties involved. This is key to the success of the construction stage.

The success of Phase 1 the OUTS was the understanding of all involved parties; what was hoped to be achieved from the conservation, restoration and updating of facilities. This harmonious relationship between all parties allowed for creative, intelligent and unique ideas to evolve.

This is epitomised in the introduction of disabled access into the Soane’s. The lift has not only allowed for further engagement between the collections and those who wish to experience them. But is also an example of design and construction at its best within a listed public building. The design of the lift is as such that it fits into the décor of the building causing no disruption to the visual aesthetic. Hidden within the stack of a former closet the lift is disguised by faux bookshelves. This design is both ingenious and fun, harking back to its historical beginnings, it sits perfectly within its environment and provides a usability that opens up the Soane’s delights to unprecedented levels.

Faux Bookcase Door Revealing Lift

Faux Bookcase Door Revealing Lift

The UK is a world leader in heritage. Our Museums and Galleries like the Soanes’ will continue to need conservation, restoration and development. The design and construction of such projects has an invaluable effect on the collections, visitors and surrounding communities. Museums and galleries open up people’s minds to the new ideas. They help the economy and architectural landscape of a community. Therefore it is the guardians, architects, contractors and all parties involved duty to ensure that we continue to think intelligently, creatively and harmoniously when embarking upon projects which affect the UK public and further world communities so fundamentally.

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