The Discover Greenwich Visitor Centre is the starting point for millions of visitors to the Old Royal Naval College (ORNC) and Maritime Greenwich UNESCO World Heritage Site. This new interpretation and education centre is inserted into the Grade II Listed Pepy’s Building, originally designed for use as racquet courts for naval officers in 1874. The historic building fabric required complete restoration and adaptation to suit the new function, with structural and spatial interventions, and external works within the grounds of the Old Royal Naval College.
The project has three distinct elements: the interpretative exhibition spaces and Clore Learning Centre; the Greenwich Tourist Information Centre; and ‘The Old Brewery’ microbrewery with restaurant and café. Each function is required to operate both discretely but also as a whole. The project also includes the adjacent landscaped and enlarged courtyard, and fully accessible external approaches.
The Pepy’s Building plan divides into three parts: firstly the principal double-height central space, containing the main interpretation and interactive exhibition area; secondly, a new mezzanine for temporary exhibitions; and thirdly, a new lift linking to a renovated, top-lit workshop forming the new Clore Learning Centre.
Two side aisles contain the Greenwich Tourist Information Centre in one, and The Old Brewery in the other, linked to the Pepy’s Building with a new garden entrance and kitchen. The surrounding courtyard is reshaped to complete the curved enclosure of the existing covered arcade. A newly created well oculus allows views of the original wellhead, which was excavated and exposed at basement level.
We worked closely with exhibition designers Real Studios, who have designed permanent displays including historical artifacts, scale models, film footage and hands-on displays, telling the story of the people who shaped the buildings and landscape of Greenwich through the centuries.
The development creates a coherent whole, which draws together the different parts into a continuous space, unified by consistent use of materials, architectural detailing and colour themes. The success of the project can be measured by more than one million visitors entering the Centre in the first year of opening, and its position as the 11th most popular visitor attraction in England.
Client: The Greenwich Foundation for the Old Royal Naval College
Architect: John Miller + Partners with Sidell Gibson
Contractor: Vinci Construction
Status: Completed 2010
Awards: Commendation, Civic Trust Awards, 2011