Whitechapel Art Gallery London
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Whitechapel Art Gallery London

Whitechapel Art Gallery London
Edited By Editorial Staff -
Founded in 1901 by the socially minded Samuel A. Barnett to bring culture and the arts to the poor in London’s East End, the Whitechapel Art Gallery soon became an important international address for modern and contemporary art - and remains so today. Always space-constrained, the gallery was recently able to enlarge when the adjacent public library vacated its premises. Architects Robbrecht en Daem (Gent, Belgium) and London practice Witherford Watson Mann Architects joined the Art-Nouveau Whitechapel building with the library, built in 1892. The result is an unconventional complex of different sized rooms with an historic but at the same time modern appearance. The gallery archive, previously housed in the cellar and closed to the public is now accessible on the first floor next to the reading room. The new layout makes pointed reference to the building’s history. When opened in 1901, the Whitechapel Art Gallery was already equipped with electricity and had an ultra-modern lighting system. This allowed it, unlike other museums, to remain open well after dusk until 10 p.m. and so allow working people to attend. Reinterpretation of the historic building has attached special importance to artificial light. The architects wanted to return to the original classic spherical shape of the first luminaires. Over the years Glashütte Limburg has perfected the material, workmanship and efficiency of this classic shape. Equipped with modern, energy-efficient, compact fluorescent lamps, the luminaires produce an illumination level very akin to natural daylight. In the rooms with low ceilings, the spheres are mounted directly on ceiling or walls. London’s East End has developed from a working-class district into a lively quarter for artists and an important centre of creativity. By rekindling the educational spirit that drove the creation of the Whitechapel Gallery in the early 20th century, today’s renovation reinforces a well known local landmark to the benefit of the community at large.

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