Dulwich Picture Gallery

Dulwich Picture Gallery

This is England’s first public art gallery (1811), an architectural masterpiece by Sir John Soane. Suggesting a formal quadrangle, the new building forms a cloistered entrance garden in front of the gallery. Central to the design is the cloister, which links the cafe, lecture room and education centre to the main picture gallery. It mediates between the differing architectural styles, setting up a shifting rhythm with glass rooflights reflecting the buttresses of the chapel. The existing gallery has been entirely restored, including sophisticated new artificial and natural lighting discretely incorporated into the existing building fabric.


Dulwich Picture Gallery


Dulwich, London, UK





The brief called for all the facilities that a modern gallery required: to provide a suitable environment for the collection; to provide a temporary gallery; to improve the visitor support facilities by providing a cafe, toilets, lecture hall and education space; and to improve the back of house facilities, including workshops and a picture store.

Although there is little visual evidence of change, the original gallery building has been entirely refurbished with modern computer-controlled variable daylighting through the roof lights, modern lighting replacing the old fluorescent and concealed black-out blinds bringing the lighting levels control within modern conservation standards.

Externally the east facade has been remodelled by replacing the redundant 1950s windows with a series of blind arches, echoing the original, and creating greater internal hanging space. The gardens have been subtly remodelled with a new footpath leading to the gallery entrance, creating a promenade within the newly opened up south garden.

The new building is designed as a thick garden wall and using the original red brick of the wall with glass inserts to distinguish the individual elements. The southern façade of the café and the facades of the cloister open to engage the garden and the main gallery. The glazing is shaded by the stainless steel mesh hung between supports acting as a brise-soleil. The temporary gallery can also be adapted to become a lecture theatre by lowering the floor. The new education space is inserted between the existing chapel and the back of house facilities.

Our relationship with Dulwich Picture Gallery continued in the following years where we have assisted in a series of further improvement and renewal works. These included the improved external access to the main picture gallery in 2011, renovation of the Sackler Centre for Arts Education 2013, and a strategic review of the gallery's building stock in 2016 which lead to further improvements to Gallery Cottage to provide better facilities for school groups, corporate away days and wedding ceremonies.

Rick Mather Architects

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