Somerset House

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Somerset House, on the Strand in London, is one of the best examples of 18th century architecture in Britain. Home to many of our great institutions (both the Navy and the Inland Revenue began there), it was painted by Canaletto and written about by Pepys and Austen. We researched and designed a permanent exhibition to give visitors an insight into this fascinating past; its crucial political role and connection to the river. Each wall was designed as a visual 'quilt' — a rich and exciting mix of found imagery, photography, painting and animated screens, each concerned with a specific aspect of Somerset House; The People, The Great Institutions, The Building, and the House Today.

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The wayfinding of this complex space which was never for the public had to be both sensitive to the historic environment and attractive to visitors, many of them unfamiliar with the space or without English as a first language. The solution links the information to an historic journey, as the images we unearthed for the exhibition went on to be used on the signs. Standing outside the Seaman's Hall where Nelson used to take his orders creates a powerful sense of place — in effect extending the exhibition throughout the whole building.

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