Where to? — Cromwell Place


Where to..?

It’s a curious paradox that in times of crises we must prioritise pillars of survival over enjoyment.


Healthcare, education and commerce have dominated our collective attentions these past couple of years and the world, by necessity, has been forced to take on a greyer complexion. However, it’s in these times of sparsity that the arts – the muse – are most precious and, tellingly, so very ardent in their propensity to be called upon.

Cromwell Place, London
Cromwell Place, London

Robin Williams put it far better than I in 1989’s Dead Poet’s Society:

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”


Well thankfully, there’s a new gallery in town and it’s nothing short of a behemoth. Gallery doesn’t quite cut it, actually. Cromwell Place is a one of a kind global arts destination and membership organisation. The destination in question was designed in 1858 by Sir Charles James Freake. 14 distinctive Victorian gallery spaces, permanent and shared offices, open-desks, meeting rooms and viewing rooms spread across five grade-II listed buildings in the heart South Kensington.

Cromwell Place, London

It is now home to some of the world’s most exciting galleries, collectors, dealers and advisors: with specialities ranging from Antiquities and Old Masters through to 19th Century, Modern and Contemporary art. Cromwell Place is a newfound sanctuary – a safe and discreet environment where one can create and view art.

Ever sensitive to converting (or shall we say augmenting) existing buildings that already sing with a history far larger than their own, architecture firm Buckley Gray Yeoman have created a veritable work of art in their own right. Historic interiors are reimagined and repurposed for their unique hub model to operate across the arts calendar. A fluid merry-go-round of curation that’s as versatile as it is spectacular.

Cromwell Place, London
Cromwell Place, London

The building of a brand new pavilion has created the largest of Cromwell Place’s gallery spaces. Set back within a public courtyard, a saw-tooth roof punctuated with north lights sits above 143m2 of column-free space with floor-to-ceiling heights of up to 4.6 metres to create a world-class display area for major exhibitions. It comprises a carefully detailed lightweight steel frame, intricately clad, to form a bespoke profile over an open plan ground floor gallery area. Overlooked from all angles, the roof is effectively the fifth elevation of the building. Its hipped roof-lights allow north light into the galleries below, and the whole volume is clad in blackened stainless steel with a textured finish.

Much of the design of the building draws on inspiration from the celebrated British painter Sir John Lavery, who originally occupied number 5 Cromwell Place. The designs are conscious of this heritage and many of the outstanding period features – original staircases with ironwork balustrades, curled timber handrails, original fireplaces, cornicing and ceiling roses – have been lovingly restored to create a new arts epicentre.

Cromwell Place, London

So, for now, we have sustained life. Lockdowns are lifting and the world is opening up again. Let’s get back to enjoying it, shall we?


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