The Photographers' Gallery
O’Donnell + Tuomey
- Original design
- Unknown, 1910
- O’Donnell + Tuomey, 2012
The 2018 programme is now past. We will be launching the 2019 programme mid-August.
The Photographers' Gallery was founded in 1971 by Sue Davies OBE in a converted Lyons Tea Shop at No 8 Great Newport Street in London’s Covent Garden.
Free to the public, it was the first gallery in England to be devoted solely to photography. The aim, born from Davies’ own passion for photography and her frustration that it was denied the consideration and exhibition platform of other visual arts, was to provide a proper home for photographers and their work, as well as establish the medium as a serious art form. Through an illuminating and influential programme of exhibitions, talks and educational activities, the Gallery elevated photography as an artistic and cultural leader whilst promoting its vital role as a social and historical document.
Quickly building up a reputation for presenting informed, imaginative, sometimes provocative, always relevant presentations of established and new work from some of the greatest and most visionary photographers of our time, The Photographers’ Gallery became a must-visit for anyone interested in the form, its development as a leading artistic medium and its relationship to wider culture.
In 1980 the Gallery acquired an additional space at No 5 Great Newport Street, extending its exhibition spaces and allowing the development of a bookshop and café, as well as a Print Sales room, dedicated to promoting and selling the work of British and international photographers. Both in ambition and scale, The Photographers' Gallery grew from strength to strength, leading the way in photographic presentation in the UK and providing an essential place for the medium’s development.
Four decades later, after a major capital campaign and the purchase and redevelopment of a 1910 warehouse in Ramillies Street, Soho, The Photographers’ Gallery was able to extend its ambitions and activities for photographic exploration even further by relocating to its new and current home in May 2012.
The Photographers’ Gallery is located at a crossroads, between Soho and Oxford Street. The corner site is visible in a glimpse view through the continuous shop frontage of Oxford Street. Ramillies Street is approached down a short flight of steps, leading to a quieter world behind the scenes of London life, a laneway with warehouses and backstage delivery doors.
The brick-warehouse steel-frame building was converted in 2012 and extended to minimise the increase in load on the existing structure and foundations. This extended volume houses large gallery spaces. A close control gallery is located within the fabric of the existing building.
The lightweight extension is clad in a dark rendered surface that steps forward from the face of the existing brickwork. The street front café is finished with black polished terrazzo. Untreated hardwood timber framed elements are detailed to slide into the wall thickness flush with the rendered surface. The composition and detail of the hardwood screens and new openings give a crafted character to the façade.
A deep cut in the ground floor façade was made to reveal the café. The ground floor slab was cut out to lead down to the basement bookshop. An east-facing picture window and the north-light periscope window to the city skyline were added in response to the specific character of the site.
Designed by award-winning Irish architects O'Donnell + Tuomey, the building features three dedicated floors of gallery spaces. This 100 per cent increase in exhibition space from the previous premises in Great Newport Street allows the Gallery to showcase established and high-profile artists alongside emerging photographic talent from around the world.
Situated at the heart of the building, between two of the exhibition floors, is the Studio Floor. This hosts a range of talks, events, workshops and courses as well as a camera obscura, the Study Room, and Touchstone – a changing display of a single photographic work.
Complementing the exhibition and education floors are the new spaces for the Bookshop, Print Sales Room and Café, creating a lively meeting place at street level.