In July 2019, Polstore commenced a new archival storage project for Courtauld Institute of Art. Courtauld Connects is an ambitious transformation programme which increases the accessibility of The Courtauld’s world-class artworks, research and teaching.
Phase 1 focused on refurbishing Somerset House in order to increase gallery and archival space, which would provide new spaces for public learning and improve the visitor experience. To gain a thorough understanding of our client’s needs, we met with the team, viewed the individual artefacts and completed a site visit.
As well as being Grade 1 listed, the building is situated on The Strand which naturally brought challenges for site access, offloading and navigation of equipment around narrow access corridors and stairwells.
There were two key projects in phase 1. The first was the prints and drawings store.
The previous method of storage meant that the works could not be viewed safely or securely without being removed from the room. We designed 35 archival cupboards which optimized the space available, as well as navigated the narrow access to the floor. Despite creating 8 different sized cupboards, we achieved a uniform appearance across the room. Special attention was given to using special tapered plinth fronts, giving the illusion of a level floor.
Within the room, we also created two separate viewing areas. Our challenge here was moving a single piece Trespa worktop, weighing 100kg, into the room. The easiest solution would have been two pieces joined, but the join would be visible in the finish, which neither us nor our client wanted.
A 4.5m bespoke manufactured table with Trespa worktop was also designed for the examination room next door. Three of Polstore’s heavy duty mobile drawer cabinets were used for under counter storage of tools and equipment. All storage solutions were designed to ensure they worked around the duties of museum staff and prevented any accidental damage.
Phase 2 was the basement archive stores, which consisted of five rooms. Each required its own storage solution to accommodate the unique obstacles be they air conditioning units or irregular wall angles. For the main painting store, we created 135 square metres of hanging space using sixteen double-sided pull-out mesh picture racks, coupled with wall mounted mesh picture racking panels.
The beauty of Polstore storage solutions is that we can configure our units in any set up required. This allowed us to set up four drawer cabinets for secure storage which doubled up as a workstation, within the room.
Transporting the high value artefacts safely from room to room by the museum staff was equally as important as the storage. We designed and produced four bespoke art trolleys with suspension wheels and specific sized drawers and shelves. Careful consideration also had to be given to the process and order of artefacts being brought back into the building, without impacting access to the five rooms.
The design and install offered its challenges but the team at Polstore have certainly found it rewarding to work on such ambitious and prestigious project.