The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is honoring the Sainsbury Wing at the National Gallery in London— designed by Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates (VSBA)—with its Twenty-five Year Award. The award is presented annually to a project that has “stood the test of time by embodying architectural excellence for 25 to 35 years.”
AIA’s Twenty-five Year Award is conferred on a building that has set a precedent for the last 25-35 years and continues to set standards of excellence for its architectural design and significance.
Architects Robert Venturi, FAIA, and Denise Scott Brown, FAIA—VSBA founding principals—sought to relate the new wing to the National Gallery while maintaining the wing’s own identity as a work of modern architecture. A play on Italian Mannerism, the Sainsbury Wing demonstrates the architects’ sophisticated but ironic acknowledgement of modern conditions while thoroughly exploring classical architecture’s conventions. Providing grade access to the entire gallery, the wing boasts an entrance accessible to all visitors, in direct contrast to the original building.
Spanning 120,000-square-feet, Sainsbury Wing is one of the world’s most visited collections of early Italian and Northern Renaissance paintings. Its original design is still largely intact and has had few alterations since its completion. In 2018, Historic England, the government arm charged with protecting England’s historic treasures, bestowed Grade I status on the wing, propelling it into the ranks of the country’s most architecturally significant buildings.
The facade of the VSB addition echoes the architectural rhythm of the main Gallery building, slowly breaking down the historic geometries until the dissolve entirely around a corner. Inside, domestically-scaled galleries create an atypically comfortable gallery experience.
“…Dr. Barnabas Calder wrote that the wing’s presence on the square was ‘politely low key and even more so on Pall Mall East.’ Many others have noted that visitors may be as unaware of the building as they are of the contentious competition that spawned it, proving that, indeed, Venturi and Scott Brown successfully designed a building that does not outshine its context.”
News courtesy of AIA