Somerset House, London
Client: Somerset House Foundation
Brief: Repurposing of a historic civic building and its outdoor spaces
The brief for Somerset House was turn an impressive 18th century building, with its terrace and courtyard into a civic building and public space that would host both permanent and temporary cultural activities. The challenge was to design interventions in the courtyard that would not only transform it from a car park but allow it to become an outdoor room that changes seasonally. In addition to new granite sett paving a grid of 55 fountains were introduced. The water provides visual and oral animation that is then supplemented by the people, mainly children, who are drawn to play in the fountains. Each fountain is fitted with a fibre optic light which enables their six centimetre to six metre height to be lit, enlivening the space even after dark. The fountains are flush mounted to allow events to occupy the courtyard. In the winter a massive Christmas tree and a skating rink installed. On summer evenings people sprawl on the ground to watch films on a giant screen. A rolling programme of uses are installed throughout the year. As well, the terrace overlooking the River Thames was fitted out to accommodate outdoor dining.
(with Dixon Jones Architects)