Reed Watts were invited by the V&A to submit proposals for the refurbishment of the Raphael gallery. Our response was to create a dramatic new space for exhibiting Raphael’s Cartoons, providing layered opportunities for interpretation and creating a unique venue for events. The starting points for the proposals were the church-like nature of the gallery (and its similarity in scale to the Sistine Chapel) and secondly, the Cartoons’ direct link to tapestry and weaving.
A new barrel vault would distinguish the Raphael Court from the other galleries in the Aston Webb wing, whilst respecting (and not harming) the existing structure. The crafted nature of the new vaults, featuring a gold and lapis lazuli blue chequered pattern, reinforces the suggestion of a connection to the Sistine Chapel and provided a strong (contextual) link with history and process.The vault provides an acoustic baffle and flexible locations for luminaires – which will serve to remedy key shortcomings in the current gallery. Lighting levels would be further enhanced by a new lighter colour scheme on the walls, which would contrast with a new plinth around the perimeter which provides the datum, materiality and colour from which to develop the furniture design. The datum creates a specific strata below the Cartoons for circulation, seating, viewing, and learning.